Thursday, October 8, 2009








District Attorney gets the call
McKee to deploy to Iraq; will keep elected office
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–It’s no wonder that Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee, 39, is being called to serve in Iraq.
McKee has been a member of the National Guard since he was 17. He participated in Desert Storm and Desert Shield as active military in 1994.
He hasn’t been called up to serve since then.
McKee doesn’t expect to receive his orders until two to three weeks before his training period begins (sometime in January), but members of his unit have known for a while deployment was likely.
The Louisiana-based 256th Infantry Brigade expects to be deployed to Kuwait and Iraq sometime next spring.
The 256th was last deployed to Iraq four years ago, but McKee was not selected to serve at that time.
The Monitor learned of his possible deployment early last month, but agreed to wait for a press release from McKee’s office.
However, this week an anonymous person sent a few negatively-written sentences to all the newspapers, which caused McKee to speak of his upcoming assignment sooner than he had planned.
The writer insinuated McKee should resign his seat as District Attorney during his deployment.
McKee is among many elected officials who are also members of the National Guard. They find a way to continue to serve their constituency while serving their country overseas.
“I plan to remain in daily contact with my office through e-mails and phone calls,” he said.
“I feel we’ve assembled a highly professional staff over the last 10 months, who will be capable of carrying on the day-to-day functions of the office while I am away,” he told The Monitor.
“In fact, public officials have continued in office while being deployed all the way back to the Civil War,” he said.
One recent example is the son of U.S. Vice President Joe R. Biden Jr.
Joe R. “Beau” Biden III continued to serve as Attorney General for the state of Delaware during his one-year deployment to Iraq in 2008.
When his father vacated his U.S. Senate seat, the state Democratic Party asked him if he would consider a senatorial appointment while fulfilling his obligation to the Guard.
He declined, and said that if he were to be Senator, he would want to run for the post, and not get it through an appointment.
Another example is former state Rep. Rick Noriega (District 145-Houston).
Noriega joined the military in 1979, following the hostage crisis in Iran, later transferring to the Texas National Guard.
While serving from 1998 to 2008 in the House of Representatives, Noriega was deployed overseas for 14 months, with a year in Afghanistan (2004-5). He retained his seat, and his wife was allowed to serve in his place.
Upon his return, he served with the guard in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, he again served a short time with Jump Start at the Laredo Border Command.
“Mark Hill, all the lawyers and my staff will continue – my office will not miss a beat while I’m gone,” McKee said.
Though McKee has put plans in place to assure the smooth operation of his office while deployed, his first concern is his family.
He and wife Ashley have two young boys, ages 4 and 2, and an older son, age 15.
“I regret most, missing those nine months I’ll be away from them,” he said. (McKee has been informed his deployment will last nine months. Including training and debriefing afterwards, the total time of his service will likely be a year.)
Since the news broke about his upcoming deployment, McKee said he hasn’t received a single negative comment.
“The support we’ve received has been overwhelming,” he said.
“I’ve been called to serve my country, just as I have been called to serve my community here. I’ll be back, Lord willing,” he added. “I want to go on serving as DA for many years to come.”


East Cedar Creek picks escrow agent
Latest step in sale of Mabank water customers
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–In a special meeting Monday, the East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District board took another step forward in the purchase of Mabank water customers located inside Gun Barrel City.
Board members named Beasley Williams LLP of Dallas as the escrow agent, instead of the Henderson County Title Company.
The earnest money is for the contract of sale of the public water utility system and transfer of service territory (the certificate of convenience and necessity or CCN) between the ECCFWSD and the city of Mabank, executed June 18.
Directors then approved the escrow agreement between the city of Mabank and ECCFWSD, naming Beasley Williams as escrow agent.
“Williams will deposit $5,000 into the escrow account, and immediately afterwards, let the city of Mabank know the funds are in escrow,” ECCFWSD general manager Bill Goheen said.
“This is another segment of the agreement between ECCFWSD and the city of Mabank toward finalizing the purchase of their customers in GBC,” Goheen said.
ECCFWSD is paying the city of Mabank $1.1 million for the purchase of the CCN involved, the meters and the infrastructure, Goheen added.
In other business, directors:
• authorized the use of district equipment by volunteer ECCFWSD employees to aide Gun Barrel City’s efforts to secure a grant that is dependent upon volunteer community assistance.
“The general consensus of our directors agreed it was a very positive grant project,” Goheen said, adding the beautification of the city park was a positive step for the community.
• approved a 40-year lease agreement within the 138 acres owned by the district, allowing two acres to be used by the Payne Springs Volunteer Fire Department as a site to build a new fire station.
The agreement is contingent upon approval by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of the reduction of the district’s irrigation field by two acres.


Givers of hope honored with awards
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–The East Texas Crisis Center announced this year’s winners of the Hope Awards in a special ceremony Oct. 8 at Tara Winery.
Four recipients were honored for “going the extra mile” to assist, help and give hope to victims of domestic abuse and violence.
An abused woman in a spiraling relationship centered around power and control often feels her situation is utterly hopeless.
If she has children, her burden of worry and fear multiplies, until she can become paralyzed, and unable to act.
That’s why those in law enforcement and in the court system who offer a glimmer of hope are worthy of recognition, honor and thanks.
The East Texas Crisis Center expresses that gratitude on behalf of its clients in the annual Hope Awards.
Now in its ninth year, the Hope Awards also serve to shine some light into the dark world of domestic violence and abuse.
The month of October has been set aside to publicize this very real and growing societal problem.
Young children learn how to get their way through intimidation, name-calling and bullying. They also learn to become victims.
It’s been said “it takes a village to raise a child.” In this case, it really does, East Texas Crisis Center outreach coordinator Donna Johnson said.
Teaching kids the dynamics of bullying and the cure – mutual respect – is just one of the areas where the center serves Henderson County, as well as four neighboring counties.
“Until much more is done to prevent domestic violence, we’ll be pouring more and more resources into advocating for victims, giving relocation support, counseling, training, legal advocacy and support group programs,” Johnson said.
This year’s Hope Award recipients have all done their jobs in a most professional manner, but also with the added element of compassion for the victims, she said.
Winners of this year’s Hope Awards are:
• Caney City police chief Ken Holder,
• Sheriff’s deputy Duane Sanders,
• District Attorney’s victim coordinator DeAnna Browning, and
• County Attorney administrator Diane Russ.
Since most domestic violence charges are largely considered misdemeanor offense, it’s up to the County Attorney’s Office to prosecute these cases. This office is also responsible for holding hearings and issuing protective orders.
Johnson said Russ really goes beyond her job description.
One time Russ went down to the Sheriff’s Office with a victim to help her get the documents she needed to transfer a protective order from another state, Johnson related.
“She also makes numerous phone calls and presses to get an offender served with a protective order,” Johnson said.
DeAnna Browning has been with the District Attorney’s office in her present job for at least six years.
“She talks to victims to give them confidence to stand up to her offender in court,” Johnson said. She also helps victims find accommodations the night before they are scheduled to testify.
“I don’t think she ever sleeps,” Johnson said, adding that Browning also makes the time to present special tokens to women in the Center’s support group.
As a law enforcement officer, deputy Duane Sanders presents a victim with a sensitive face and actively advocates for them, something law enforcement doesn’t typically do, Johnson said.
He communicates every resource he knows that might help a victim get out of the situation.
“He’s just very, very victim-oriented. He’s extremely important to us,” Johnson said. “He is always there to assist when there’s a battered woman involved.”
Holder has been with Caney City for nearly three years, and in that time, he has built a network to assist him with domestic violence cases.
He sees and processes 10 to 15 cases a year. “For such a small community, that’s an abnormally high number,” he said.
Holder also meets with other officers county-wide to review every domestic violence case that month.

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
2009 Hope Award winners Caney City police chief Ken Holder (left) Sheriff's
deputy Duane Sanders, Diane Russ from the County Attorney's Office and DA
Office victim coordinator DeAnna Browning.

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