When helping local governments achieve compliance, we commonly receive the questions about which forms to use. The compliance forms differ depending on whether you are non-elected or elected office. Sometimes we receive questions about the difference in elected by the public versus elected by the board in ascertaining the forms. What does the term “elected official” mean? If you are unsure whether your office is an elective county office, here’s how to determine it.
The Compliance Form:
Examining the form SLR 512 – Records Management Policy and Declaration of Compliance By an Elected County Official, the title provides the key term “elected county” to help define designation of such officials. We can find definitions for these terms in a variety of sources.
The Texas Secretary of State’s Glossary of Election Terminology defines the term county office as “an office of the county government that is voted on countywide or from a portion of the county such as commissioner, justice, or constable precinct.” The definition offers a few examples as to what offices fall into the category of county elected officials.
The second term is general election for state and county officers where the general election is one “at which officers of the federal, state, and county governments are elected; held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday on November of each even-numbered year.” This term provides the contextual time frame to when the elections are held for the county offices.
Outside from the definitions we can find more information about the county elected offices from the Texas legal codes.
The first referenced legal citation comes from the Local Government Code § 203.001, which states “each elected county officer is the records management officer for the records of the officer’s office.” However, the LGRA does not provide a list of which offices fall under the designation of elected county offices versus all other non-elected local governments.
The next place to analyze for information is the Election Code.
Election Code §52.092: Offices Regularly Filled at General Election for State and County Offices categorizes the offices that appear on the ballot. §52.092(e) and (f) lists out the county positions that come up election for each election cycle.
Election Code §52.092(e) lists the county offices:
- county judge;
- judge, county court at law;
- judge, county criminal court;
- judge, county probate court;
- county attorney;
- district clerk;
- district and county clerk;
- county clerk;
- sheriff and tax assessor-collector;
- county tax assessor-collector;
- county treasurer;
- county school trustee (county with population of 3.3 million or more);
- county surveyor.
Election Code §52.092(f) lists the following precinct offices:
- county commissioner;
- justice of the peace;
The Texas Constitution:
The Texas Constitution addresses the formation and appointment of local governments and what authority each type holds. What differentiates a potential elected from a non-elected local government entity seems to be reflected in the wording for each establishment.
For example, Article V Section 20 states for county clerks:
- “There shall be elected for each county, by the qualified voters, a County Clerk, who shall hold his office for four years, who shall be clerk of the County and Commissioners Courts and recorder of the county, whose duties, perquisites and fees of office shall be prescribed by the Legislature, and a vacancy in whose office shall be filled by the Commissioner’s Court, until the next general election;”
The phrase to take note of is “who shall hold his office for four years.” The state constitution indicates that this elected county official’s position comes up for election or re-election every four years.
An example of a non-elected local government is a hospital district, defined in Article IX Section 9:
- “The Legislature may by general or special law provide for the creation, establishment, maintenance and operation of hospital districts composed of one or more counties or all or any part of one or more counties with power to issue bonds for the purchase, construction, acquisition, repair or renovation of buildings and improvements and equipping same, for hospital purposes;”
For non-elected local government entities, the state constitution states that the Legislature may authorize their formation through legislation or by putting the potential local government to be instituted to the county by vote. The constitution does not indicate an election cycle for these local governments.
Another place to check is the Texas Association of Counties (TAC). The Association of Counties serves to assist county governments to accomplish solutions to the challenges faced by each county, and a support service to aid county officials in execution of public service. TAC includes information about the tasks of Texas county officials and lists out each county office.
To Sum Up:
To summarize, the best guidance to determine if your local government falls into the category of elected county official for compliance is a two pronged check. First, see if your office is one of the government seats that regularly comes up for election listed in the election code. Second, see if the local government office holder is determined by an election cycle set forth in the state constitution. These two factors determine which local government is an elected county official.
For more information about compliance information check out these blog articles:
If you are an elected official serving as the countywide RMO, see FAQ: Are We In Compliance? for compliance guidance.
If you have further questions about compliance, contact your analyst here.