The continuing funding controversy between the Sheriff’s Office and the Commissioner’s Court culminated in what Sheriff MEEKS considers an unfortunate and unethical turn of events. After disagreements surrounding the funding for a depleted gasoline line item on Monday, June 27, the Commissioners Court apparently took up Sheriff’s Office business at the budget hearing of a completely different elected official on Tuesday, June 28. During that meeting, at which Sheriff MEEKS was not invited nor even informed that he would be discussed, the Commissioners determined to cut from the 2011/2012 Sheriff’s Budget one administrative position and two law enforcement positions, including that of Undersheriff (Chief Deputy) Joe KNIGHT.
MEEKS learned of this decision through “rumors”. He confirmed the decision by contacting a Commissioner, the elected Official in whose budget hearing this decision took places as well as other Hunt County Officials present at the meeting. “I was both hurt and appalled by such action, especially considering this was done entirely behind my back and without my knowledge. Even after the decision was made, I was never informed”.
In a directly related event, Hunt County Sheriff Randy MEEKS announced today the resignation of Undersheriff Joe KNIGHT. KNIGHT began with MEEKS in the mid 90’s first as a Chaplain, later as a reserve Deputy Constable, then Warrant Officer and finally as Undersheriff (Chief Deputy). According to KNIGHT, his decision was reached after the funding for the Chief Deputy position was cut from the Sheriff’s Office for the 2011/2012 budget and in light of a compromise agreement tendered by MEEKS at the June 27 Commissioners Court Meeting.
After the details of the Tuesday budget hearing came forth, KNIGHT determined on his own volition that it was time to move on. “Everyone knows that the price of gasoline has gone through the roof” said KNIGHT. “Rather than offer solutions or help fund the line as was done in 2008 when a similar situation occurred, the Court chose to stonewall. The Sheriff was forced to offer up a compromise seeking permission to transfer funds from the salary line to provide for gasoline. By stepping down now instead of when the position is cut, a full two months of the Chief Deputy’s salary can be turned into gasoline” said KNIGHT. “That translates into dozens of building checks and the chance to kick the doors of a few more drug houses. I am not as important as all that.”
“While I have deep and mixed emotions: KNIGHT continued, “I have already served in this position much longer that I had intended. The continuous onslaught against this Sheriff that has just recently boiled to the surface really began in early 2009. I found it impossible to leave this Sheriff and take the risk of hurting him or this Agency by being misunderstood. The recent decision of this Commissioners court however, has made my leaving inevitable. I never hid the fact from anyone that I am also a minister and serve one of our local Churches. Both our Church family and their leadership have shown unwavering support to this adventure. It was this support that made it possible for me to serve this Sheriff.
KNIGHT’s responsibilities, which were many and varied according to MEEKS, will be assumed by several different Deputies. KNIGHT hopes to continue with the Sheriff’s Office as Chaplain and a maybe even a reserve Deputy at some point. “My loyalty remains with Sheriff MEEKS” said KNIGHT, “and my heart remains with the men and women who take on such enormous responsibility with little pay and fewer thanks. To work beside them has been an honor and a joy that I could never fully express.”
According to Sheriff MEEKS, “Joe will be missed by the people of this Agency and by the community”. MEEKS credits KNIGHT with being the driving force behind the gambling investigation that rid Hunt County of dozens of illegal gambling locations, many that had been in operation for more than 20 years. “Not only did Joe assume the leadership of this investigation in mid-2010, he also has been responsible for continued follow-up and monitoring of this illegal activity to this day.”