Constable resigns due to budget crisis

March 22, 2011 4:40:09 PM PDT
It's a bold move by Harris County's longest-serving current constable dealing with budget cuts. During Tuesday morning's meeting at commissioners' court, Precinct 8 Constable Bill Bailey announced he would step down and cut his own position, rather than fire another one of his employees.

The walls full of awards and a cadre of loyal employees are all signs of a successful career Bailey has built up over the past 28 years, and it's a career coming to an early end.

"Let's be fair; I'm not being noble. It's the practical thing to do. It's the right thing to do. The time is right," Bailey said.

With every department in Harris County being required to cut 10 percent from its budget, Bailey has already laid off 12 people in Precinct 8. But it still wasn't enough. So on Monday, in front of a packed commissioners court meeting, an emotional Bailey announced he'd be layoff number 13.

"I will retire the job that I dearly love, for 28 and a half years," he said at court.

Bailey got a standing ovation.

"It's time to go," quipped Bailey. "I'm not some guy falling on the sword. I don't need the money."

Commissioners now will need to appoint a replacement. What will most likely happen is that his chief deputy will be appointed, a captain will move into the chief deputy's job, and they would eliminate a captain's position. That would save his precinct approximately $70,000, and at least one job.

"It will save a job, it definitely will, but then we'll be down 13," Pct. 8 employee Judy Suchadoll said.

Laying off staff, Bailey admits, has been emotionally draining.

"Everybody's been uneasy about it, pretty much feeling sick to their stomach at all times, worrying if they're going to be laid off or not," Pct. 8 Dep. Mike Humphries said.

But the layoffs are now done in Pct. 8, and Bailey says that's the best reward for quitting.

"I'm 72 years old. [It's] time to go," he said.

Bailey's term doesn't expire until the end of 2012, but he was not planning to run for re-election anyway. His last day on the job will be May 31.

"I still got it here," said Bailey, pointing to his brain, "But I'm not sure I got it here," as he pointed to his heart.

To those worried about Bailey's future, he says don't. He's set to start work at a funeral home in June and will remain involved in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

All eight constables in Harris County have had to make cuts, but Bailey is the only one retiring.

We surveyed the offices of all the constables to see how they are coping with the budget cuts:

Constable 1 Jack Abercia
Laid off 50 people, which includes approximately 44 uniformed deputies.

Constable 2 Gary Freeman
Laid off nine deputies, which all worked for Galena Park ISD. Galena Park expected to hire on deputies.

Constable 3 Ken Jones
Instituted furloughs. Took 124 deputies from 40 hours a week down to 32 hours a week.

Constable 4 Ron Hickman
Plans not finalized -- could lay off of 100 people, cancellation of school patrol contracts.

Constable 5 Phil Camus
Laid off 18 deputies, five police support, and one dispatcher. Took 107 personnel and reduced them to 32 hours a week. Took seven sergeants and demoted them to deputies to patrol streets.

Constable 6 Victor Trevino
No layoffs. Cut various line items, including uniforms and car repairs. Eliminated two frozen positions.

Constable 7 May Walker
One captain retired. Put 23 deputies to 32 hours. Eliminated car repairs and supplies.

Constable 8 Bill Bailey
Constable retiring. Laid off 12 employees.