Commissioners split on firm for redistricting

Mary Ann Cavazos
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
January 27, 2011

Nueces County will have help with redistricting efforts after a split decision Wednesday from county commissioners to hire a law firm.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to hire Beirne Maynard & Parsons LLP, which has offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston and New Orleans. The court's Republicans - County Judge Loyd Neal and Commissioners Mike Pusley and Joe McComb - had the majority. Commissioners Joe A. Gonzalez and Oscar Ortiz, both Democrats, voted against the hiring.

The dispute arose over questions about some of the wording in the law firm's proposal. Gonzalez and Ortiz wanted to have a workshop to clarify issues about what the law firm would be hired to do and whether county employees would still have the burden of drawing up the maps.

"I'm not ready to make a decision today, but if you have the votes do it," Ortiz said.

Neal said he wanted a unanimous vote.

Ortiz and Gonzalez also had wanted to invite other law firms to a workshop.

Pusley said it didn't make sense to restart the search when he had done the research and made sure the firm was qualified.

"The workshop is designed to stall this process," Pusley said. "That's what it's for."

See FIRM, 3B

The last time the commissioners' precincts were redrawn was in 2000. The impending release of new U.S. census data means it's time to start the process again.

Neal and Pusley warned that waiting too long could leave the county with fewer choices because many counties and other government entities are vying for top law firms.

Pusley said commissioners will have the chance to negotiate the terms and approve the contract. The project's cost could be as much as $50,000, according to the proposal.

At one point Pusley left the meeting to call the law firm. When he returned he repeated that the law firm would do whatever the county needed.

"We're reading too much into this proposal," Pusley said. "They will help us with any part of that process that we want them to."