‘This is a bloody mess.’ Hearing in Barrier-Campos saga gets underway and it was, well, interesting.
Updated: Jun 29, 2021
It was a history-making moment inside the courtroom of the Donald R. Jones Justice Center on Wednesday when a hearing got underway to determine if Erath County treasurer Kimberly Barrier should be removed from office.
County Judge Alfonso Campos filed a petition on May 10, 2021 to have Barrier removed for what he alleges is “incompetency.”
Retired Brown County Judge Stephen Ellis is presiding over the proceeding and heard lengthy testimony from Barrier and Campos.
Barrier was the first to take the stand and told District Attorney Alan Nash that she was elected in 2018 and began her official role on Jan. 1, 2019. Prior to taking office, she spent several months working alongside former longtime county treasurer Donna Kelly.
She told Nash that her job duties were what she expected when she ran for office and that one of her main responsibilities as county treasurer is to reconcile bank statements every month.
Nash questioned Barrier about a string of monthly statements that were filed months behind schedule, one of Campos’ main reasons he cited for wanting her removed from office.
Barrier explained that shortly after becoming county treasurer, Campos asked her to produce the county’s budget and that the additional work caused her to fall behind.
“It just domino-ed,” Barrier said of the bank reconciliations.
After getting caught up in July 2020, Barrier told Nash that she fell behind again in November when the county went through a software conversion, in which the numbers tied to the county coffers were put into the new system incorrectly.
In his petition, Campos also alleged that the county’s investments were not being properly managed and that receipts were not being posted to the books in a timely fashion. Barrier disputed those claims as well, telling Nash that all receipts were posted monthly until the problems with the software conversion arose.
Nash asked Barrier if Campos or Erath County commissioners ever held a formal meeting with her to discuss concerns about her job performance. She said they did not.
“Did (the meeting) happen at all?” Nash asked.
No,” she said.
JUDGE CAMPOS TESTIFIES
Campos took office on Jan. 1, 2019, the same day as Barrier.
Campos told Nash that his office is responsible for producing the county’s annual budget and admitted that working on it “was a big learning curve” for him.
He said his office receives monthly reports from various departments and that he became concerned when he stopped receiving reports from the county treasurer’s office in “a timely manner.”
When asked what prompted him to file the petition to seek Barrier’s removal from office, he said, “I felt like somebody needed to do it.”
RYAN TAYLOR COMES OUT SWINGING
It had been a fairly tame proceeding until Barrier’s attorney Ryan Taylor cross-examined Campos.
Taylor forced Campos to admit that he didn’t abide by Judge Ellis’ earlier instructions to witnesses to refrain from listening to testimony inside the courtroom or as it was live-streamed throughout the courthouse.
“You listened to part of Kimberly Barrier’s testimony today, didn’t you?” Taylor asked, prompting Campos to admit that he had.
Taylor also forced Campos to admit that it was the county judge’s responsibility to produce the budget, but had passed it on to Barrier instead.
“So there is a learning curve for you and not the treasurer?” Taylor asked. “You have never been a county judge and she has never been a county treasurer. Shouldn’t she be entitled to the same learning curve that’s entitled to you?”
THE MEETING THAT NEVER HAPPENED
Perhaps the most shocking revelation from Wednesday’s testimony arrived when Campos said he did “not remember” if he or commissioners ever met with Barrier to discuss concerns about her job performance.
Campos stated in his petition that in June 2020, “The court had a formal visit with the Treasurer at this time and gave her an opportunity to correct the issues.”
Barrier, however, disputed that claim earlier in the day.
When Campos said he could not recall any specifics about that “formal visit” with Barrier, he admitted that he offered her “help and assistance to get her caught up” in the form of a memo.
In other words, it appears that Barrier never received any kind of formal face-to-face meeting with county officials to discuss concerns about her job performance.
WHY DIDN’T YOU PAY THE FILING FEE?
One of the biggest questions surrounding this case is whether Campos filed the petition in his official capacity as county judge or as a private citizen.
Taylor pointed out that there is no law that gives a county judge the power to have another elected official removed from office.
Campos said he did not file the petition in his official capacity, but failed to explain why he signed it as “county judge.”
Taylor then asked why, if he had filed the petition as a private citizen, he didn’t pay the filing fee.
“I did not pay a filing fee because I didn’t have the guidance of my county attorney,” Campos said. “She told me she would not give me any guidance on this.”
County attorney Lisa Pence had recused herself from the case citing a conflict of interest.
A SLEW OF INCONSISTENCIES
Taylor hammered out several inconsistencies found on the county’s general ledger, including a $2.3 million discrepancy and the fact that a now closed bank (Stephenville Bank & Trust) was listed on a recent report from county auditor Kent Reeves.
“Is it possible to have an account with a bank that doesn’t exist?” Taylor asked.
The heated exchange lasted nearly two hours until 5 p.m. rolled around and everyone began shuffling out of the courtroom.
As I gathered my bag to head home, a county official whispered, “This is a bloody mess.”
I’ll be back in the courtroom at 9 a.m. Thursday for part two.