Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County Commissioners to rescind County Treasurer appointment

Stephens County Commissioners to rescind County Treasurer appointment
November 02
09:59 2023

By Carla McKeown and Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

The Stephens County Commissioners will rescind their appointment of Mary O’Dell to the position of County Treasurer in a meeting on Monday, Nov. 6, following the revelation that Monday’s appointment was made in violation of Texas’ state Government Code chapter 573, regarding nepotism.

Although O’Dell’s husband, Stephens County Commissioner Eric O’Dell, did not attend either meeting at which the appointment of a new County Treasurer was discussed, the law states that not only is an official prohibited from appointing a relative to such a position but any member of the multi-member body on which the public official sits is likewise prohibited.

“The statute considers the court’s appointment of her as a hire,” Stephens County Judge Michael Roach said this morning. “And so … because she’s related to one of the members of the court, as that statute points out, it precludes any of the rest of the members of the court from hiring her.”

Click here to read the press release posted on the Stephens County, Texas, Facebook page shortly after 10:30 a.m. today, Nov. 2.

Mary O’Dell was appointed to the position and sworn in on Monday, Oct. 30, after former County Treasurer Sharon Trigg announced her immediate retirement on Tuesday, Oct. 24, following the Stephens County Commissioners Court’s approval of a new county animal policy that bans pets from the courthouse. Trigg was the caretaker of Thomas the Courthouse Cat, who had lived in the courthouse for the past 10 years after being brought in as a stray kitten by former County Judge Gary Fuller.

The animal policy was unanimously approved by the full Commissioners Court, including Eric O’Dell on Monday, Oct. 23. According to Stephens County Judge Michael Roach, shortly after that meeting, Trigg informed him of her plan to resign. On Tuesday, Oct. 24, she submitted a hand-written letter stating that her retirement from the position of County Treasurer would be effective at 11:59 p.m. Oct. 24, 2023.

The commissioners met in an emergency meeting at 3 p.m. on Oct. 23 and appointed District Clerk Christie Coapland to handle the payroll duties for the county. At that time, they postponed the appointment of a County Treasurer until Monday, Oct. 30.

On Wednesday, Nov. 1, the Breckenridge Texan received an email asking about the situation in relation to the state’s nepotism law. While researching the topic, we referenced the Texas Attorney General’s Opinion from 2021 regarding questions about Kevin Roach running for the office of Stephens County Sheriff while his brother Michael Roach was the County Judge.

That opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton stated that there was no problem with Kevin Roach running for office, since the situation involved an election. However, in the opinion, Paxton stated that it would not be legal in the case of the commissioners appointing someone that one of them was related to.

The opinion says, “If the public official is prohibited from hiring a relative by section 573.041, so too is any member of the multi-member body on which the public official sits. … (describing that hiring authority as the “exclusive right and sole legal authority to appoint or employ” personnel).”

At about 8 p.m. Wednesday evening, the Breckenridge Texan sent an email to Michael Roach, asking about the situation and the legality of the appointment. At that time, Roach said that he would consult with outside legal counsel.

Before 9 a.m. today, Nov. 2, Roach informed us that the appointment was not legal and that he would be talking to Mary O’Dell at 9:30 to let her know.

The commissioners will have a special-called meeting on Monday, Nov. 6, to consider another appointment. Roach said that the court has received two applications from candidates who are qualified but do not have any county government experience.

That appointment will be for someone to serve in the office through the end of 2024. The county will have an election next year to fill the rest of the unexpired County Treasurer’s term, which will end on Dec. 31, 2026. Filing for the unexpired term will begin on Nov. 11, 2023, and continue through Dec. 11, 2023. Any qualified citizen, including Mary O’Dell, may file to run for the unexpired term.


Cutline, top photo: The Stephens County Commissioners met in a special meeting on Monday, Oct. 30, to appoint Mary O’Dell as County Treasurer. On Thursday, Nov. 2, County Judge Michael Roach announced that the commissioners would rescind that appointment because it violates the state’s nepotism law. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)


Editor’s Note: This story was updated at about 11:50 a.m. Nov. 2, 2023, to include a link to the press release that was posted on the Stephens County Facebook page after this story was originally published.

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