Union Re-files Welfare Lawsuit, Calls Policies Unconstitutional

Pioneer. Fort Stockton, TX. Thursday July 13, 1989. 4A

Pecos County’s social services (welfare) department program is the subject of a recent petition filed by the International Union of Agriculture Workers (IUAW), according to Stephen C. McIntyre of the Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc.

The petition seeks relief from alleged “multiple violations of the Texas and U.S. Constitutions and state laws” in the county assistance program.

A lawsuit in this regard is pending in district court against Pecos County and an unnamed employee.

County Attorney W.C. “Bill” McDonald said the complaint by the union refers to a situation occurring in 1987; that it was subsequently settled and recently has been re-filed by the Texas Rural Legal Aid on behalf of the union.

“Basically,” McDonald said, “they are wanting to settle again. I think that is because they know their case will not stand up. I am not in favor of settling with them again,” he added. “I want this matter to go on to the Courthouse and to get it over with.”

Depositions of Pecos County officials are scheduled for August in the lawsuit. The unnamed employee has been requested to bring a number of documents to the deposition.

Basically, the IUAW takes issue with the county assistance program used to provide support to paupers as mandated by the law.

The lawsuit claims that the six-month residency residency requirement for eligibility for county assistance is unconstitutional and that unannounced and unlimited visits to the home of an applicant for assistance is unconstitutional.

The suit also claims that limiting the number of times a truly needy pauper may receive support assistance is a violation of the state mandate to care for the poor. Under Pecos County guidelines, paupers may receive assistance only four times per year.

Additionally, the suit claims that the refusal to pay for rent or utilities and for food only once every six months is an abuse of the discretion to be used by a Texas county in deciding how to provide support to paupers.

The union claims the failure to set any time limits on the processing of an application also is unconstitutional.

McDonald summarizes the claims as an attempt to get free care for temporary seasonal farmworkers.

The union will ask the court to decide if Pecos County’s procedures and guidelines are in violation of the law and to award the petitioner costs of the suit and attorney’s fees.