Darren Doyle, story and photo:
Fiscal Court was represented by a new county attorney today, but it was a very familiar face, one that held the position for 16 years, belonging to local attorney Greg Vincent.
Vincent discussed his new role that he's accepted by appointment to accommodate the departure of former County Attorney J.B. Hines, who is now a District Judge.
He said he's looking to put the county first in his role and advise the fiscal court as they vote on what they feel best suits the county. He talked about some issues of which he was made aware that were apparently in question as Hines turned over the office to Vincent's care.
According to Vincent, his former bank accounts in his first stint as County Attorney were operated under his social security number, not a standard Employee Identification Number (EIN) because he was only 30 years old at the time and was inexperienced at running an office. He joked that he didn't figure on being defeated in an election and the number was never changed. He said apparently Hines' office took some issue with the way Vincent's financial records were kept.
Vincent said during his previous time in office, he didn't have many ways to create revenue within his office and it did not get any funding from excess County Clerk fees as is now the case.
"I didn't have a lot of monies to run the office with coming into it; but, when I closed my accounts in 2015, I had a surplus of around $45,000 that was turned over to the county," he said.
He said apparently there were questions how Vincent kept records during his tenure as County Attorney the first time.
"Before I left office, probably in October (2015), I set up a meeting with my successor (Hines), and I told him I'd do something for him that was never done for me, which was answer any questions he may have, to discuss budgets, how the office works, and show him anything about the county attorney's office and what he could expect."
Vincent said that then Attorney Hines in fact took him up on the offer and spent a couple of hours with him.
"He had a full inspection of the office, I gave him an inventory list of all the equipment, all the furniture that would be coming to him, I let him go through all the financial records, he made copies of what he wanted and I answered his questions and we went through everything," Vincent said.
He said a date was set up to move in Hines' office and Vincent hired movers to take care of everything before the year ended in order for Hines to be ready to operate immediately after New Year's. After that, he said he assumed everything was in order and he had been more than open to the next administration.
Vincent said that over the past two years, the county attorney's office has seen financial success, which he credited much to County Clerk Kevin Alexander's office by turning over around $80K in excess fees to the CA's office during that time.
He said that since he re-assumed the role two weeks ago, he's discovered that the CA's office currently has a lien filed against them in the amount of $2300 for unpaid unemployment taxes, which Vincent would be forced to deal with.
"There have been other things like where money came from one budget to be used for something that I would think is kind of odd," he said. "I've also found were money was spent to hire a private attorney where the county was being sued by a former employee. I don't know why that was done when he could've contacted the Attorney General's Office who would have represented his office for free. There was three, four, maybe five thousand dollars or so spent on that."
Vincent's point was that he felt like he had been open with Hines' office and saw no issues with the transfer, and didn't know why any of that would be in question when he clearly saw some issues that he said he will have to deal with now.
He said as of now, he has fully assumed the County Attorney's office and has possession of equipment and furniture but is waiting for Windstream to complete the phone lines. He encouraged the magistrates to speak freely and often with his office.
"I prefer to operate in a manner to hear what you want," he said as he addressed the magistrates. "My philosophy is that you guys are the ones that vote on the issues here. It's not my place to tell you what you should do, but rather for you to tell me what you want to accomplish and I'll figure out a way to do it, if we (fiscal court) can do it."
He concluded by saying he looked forward to working with the fiscal court and is humbled by the opportunity he has once again.