Hunt County Officials Question Sheriff’s Use Of Deputies During Storm
GREENVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) – Two Hunt County officials continue to raise concerns that Sheriff Randy Meeks inappropriately dispatched his deputies to help save furniture in his home from rising flood waters while many residents requested emergency assistance during a severe storm in May 2009.
“Anytime there is concern or any question on an elected official of impropriety, I take the information and forward that information to appropriate parties,” said County Judge John Horn.
On May 2, 2009, severe weather hit Greenville in Hunt County, about 50 miles northeast of Dallas. Emergency phone calls from that day describe water pouring into stranded vehicles and snapped power lines causing sparks to shoot in the air.
“There’s a van hydroplaned in the ditch and there’s water, like, halfway up over the van,” one caller reported.
“Over here at our house, it’s sparking,” another caller said. “The tree limbs fell on our power line!”
During the storm, Meeks’ wife called 911 about water surging into her home.
“I know you guys are very busy,” she told the dispatcher. “This is the sheriff’s wife. We’re trying to sweep it out, but it keeps coming.”
Her emergency? Water was creeping toward her and her husband’s furniture. After the dispatcher tells her the department is “super, super, super busy right now,” Meeks’ wife reportedly took the matter into her own hands.
“We’re going to call and see if we can get some of the deputies maybe to come and help us,” she said then.
Phone records show that Meeks himself then called the dispatcher, told them his home was flooding and requested that any nearby deputies be rerouted to his house to help.
“We’re gonna have to move some furniture,” Meeks told the dispatcher.
The responding deputy got stuck in high water on the way, and much of the interior of his patrol car was damaged. An insurance claim would later net about $8,000 to go toward fixing it.
A jailer was sent to help the flooded deputy, and multiple other jailers were ordered to help Meeks move his furniture, a source said, adding that that Meeks’ request was uncommon among Hunt County officials.
“Not to my knowledge [is it a norm],” Horn said.
Meeks could not be reached for comment.
Horn found out about the situation after seeing the insurance claim for the damaged cruiser.
“Anytime that a government official – whether it be county, city or state – uses government equipment or employees for personal gain, that’s not authorized and is illegal under state statutes,” said Richard Hill, director of homeland security and emergency management in Hunt County.
Hill, who lost the sheriff’s election to Meeks in 2008, said he was monitoring the storms that night and said what happened at the sheriff’s home did not warrant emergency services.
Nobie Walker, the county’s District Attorney, said he received information about what occurred at the home, but that the evidence present would not sustain a criminal prosecution.
Hill, however, maintains that Meeks inappropriately used the county to help save his belongings.
“To my knowledge, that wasn’t done for any [other] private residence,” Hill said.