Collin Co. Commissioners meeting gets contentious

A usually mundane funds workshop merchandise resulted in Collin County Judge Chris Hill and District Clerk Lynne Finley exchanging verbal barbs.

COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — Collin County’s annual funds workshop held Tuesday afternoon resulted in a considerably heated trade between county higher-ups. Collin County Judge Chris Hill and County District Clerk Lynne Finley made public what seemed to be a difficulty that was dealt with internally.

Hill and Finley went forwards and backwards over the course of half-hour during a live-video-taped commissioners meeting. Finley alleged that Hill took data from the county with out her data as she is the district clerk, a place in control of dealing with data and paperwork for the county.

Finley introduced her funds in entrance of commissioners similar to the remainder of her county colleagues. It was Finley’s ultimate funds merchandise that Judge Hill took umbrage with: an unbiased trade server for emails and knowledge.

“It is significant to my workplace that I’m able to defend communication between me and my judges or my legislators or something I do in my official capability,” Finley mentioned. “We are sitting in a spot proper now telling you we have had a breach and we have to repair it,” the district clerk mentioned. 

Finley is referring to many emails that had been turned over to Hill, she claims, with out her data.

Hill instantly requested Finley to make clear her feedback, particularly because it pertains to a “breach.” WFAA has offered the trade between the decide and district clerk for full transparency.

Finley: “There was an elected official who requested straight from the I.T. division my emails.”

Hill: “Oh! You imply me? You do not imply a breach, you imply I requested for a duplicate of your- “

Finley: “You stole them. You stole them.”

It is unclear at the moment the character of the emails that had been requested by Hill. WFAA has sought remark from each Finley and Hill on this matter.

Hill makes an attempt to make clear a number of occasions within the video that there was “no breach” and that the request for emails was in “accordance with regulation.” Hill says his request was not as a member of the general public and due to this fact not pursuant to Freedom of Information Act guidelines. 

The Freedom of Information Act permits the general public the suitable to request entry to data from any federal company until the merchandise falls beneath an exemption.

Hill mentioned within the video that there are provisions that enable for a board member to request data “vital to finish his or her process on that board.” Hill mentioned he additionally consulted with an lawyer on the right plan of action when requesting data from a public servant.

“Why would you do one thing so questionable it’s important to get an lawyer concerned to get an opinion?” requested Finley.

Finley charged again saying the knowledge in these emails are sometimes privileged. She mentioned the content material within the emails cowl subjects reminiscent of A.D.A., juvenile data, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and different authorized causes that always exempt them from launch.

“I’ve by no means mentioned I do not need you to have my data. What I’ve mentioned is I have to vet to ensure no matter is exempt or privileged will not be given up. You aren’t above these exemptions or privileges,” Finley directed at Hill.

“There isn’t any provision to defend your emails from you and legislators. You’re asking for us to pay so that you can have your personal unbiased trade server…since you wish to be particular,” mentioned Hill.

Again, WFAA will not be aware about the content material of the emails that had been in the end put onto a thumb drive by the I.T. division and given to Judge Hill. 

In the video, there’s point out of a letter drafted by Hill in 2020 which are apparently “allegations” towards the division and Finley. Hill says within the video the letter addressed the district clerk’s “habits in workplace.” Finley took the letter to imagine it was a advice for her removing from workplace.

WFAA will not be aware about the contents of this letter nor to who the letter was addressed. WFAA has inquired to the county about making the contents of this letter public.

One of the allegations that Hill talked about within the meeting, and apparently within the letter, was that Finley had lengthy absences and was away from the county campus through the pandemic. Hill seems to have gleaned this data from the occasions Finley’s badge was accessed to enter the constructing.

“The report demonstrated you weren’t on campus for six complete months, not one time,” mentioned Hill. “Your staff had been nonetheless right here working. You had been to not be discovered and that annoyed me to no finish,” the decide mentioned. 

The decide clarified and wrote within the letter it was not a commentary on whether or not the district clerk was working, however slightly her attendance. 

WFAA will not be conscious of the total reasoning behind the absences outdoors of it being a pandemic the place masks guidelines and gathering restrictions had been in place for a brief time frame in Collin County.

“It was COVID, I do know you do not wish to agree there was a pandemic,” Finley mentioned. “I took care of myself, I took care of my youngsters, and I took care of my job.”

Subsequent to this trade Finley had a ultimate request in her funds presentation and that was for an unbiased badge entry examine. The district clerk took situation with Hill requesting badge entry data. Finley and Hill had been in settlement that the discharge of Finley’s badge entry data to the general public could be a severe security concern.

It was a close to 30 minute trade between district clerk and the decide that caught many individuals WFAA spoke with off-guard. One supply who didn’t wish to be named informed WFAA that the non-public spat was “effervescent beneath the floor” for some time. 

WFAA is awaiting statements from Judge Chris Hill.

The following assertion was offered to WFAA by District Clerk Lynne Finley:

“As the District Clerk of Collin County, I’m the authorized custodian of all data for the District Courts. I’m the one elected official chargeable for making certain the safety and integrity of the data of the District Courts. The data beneath my care embody not solely pleadings, Court orders, and Jury verdicts, but in addition emails and communications. The Citizens of the State of Texas, appearing via their legislators, have handed legal guidelines that legally require sure paperwork to be withheld from public disclosure. For instance, juvenile data, adoption data, and sure communications between Judges, Court workers and attorneys might not be topic to launch, or could also be sealed by the Courts. As the elected District Clerk of Collin County, I’ve a statutory and constitutional responsibility to guard these data from public disclosure.

“Chris Hill, the Collin County Judge, on a number of events, improperly seized paperwork and emails beneath my care, custody and management, with out my data or consent, by improperly accessing the e-mail servers utilized by the Office of the District Clerk. When Judge Hill’s misconduct was found, each the Office of the District Clerk, and the Collin County IT Department notified him in writing that his conduct was inappropriate and in violation of State and Federal regulation. Despite repeated warnings, Judge Hill improperly seized a major variety of protected communications and paperwork on a number of events.

“In an effort to guard the paperwork in my custody from additional misappropriation, I requested that the Collin County Commissioners Court present me with a funds to acquire an unbiased electronic mail server for the Office of the District Clerk. I’m knowledgeable by the funds division that my request is ‘not advisable.’

“If the Collin County Commissioners don’t approve an unbiased electronic mail server to guard the paperwork and communications beneath my management from the kind of improper entry perpetrated by County Judge Hill, I’ll have exhausted each cheap treatment at my disposal to fulfill my statutory duties to guard the paperwork beneath my care, and I shall be left with no remaining choice however to hunt an injunction stopping Judge Hill from releasing the paperwork he improperly seized.

“Judge Hill’s actions on this matter, and in others that I’m conscious of, don’t replicate the professionalism and repair that the Citizens of Collin County have a proper to count on of their Elected Officials. Judge Hill has repeatedly uncovered the residents of Collin County to each authorized and monetary legal responsibility.

“Every citizen of Collin County needs to be involved with the actions of County Judge Chris Hill, as a result of each Citizen of Collin County will in the end should pay for them.”

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