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Sinegal votes against lawsuit check

BEAUMONT — Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael Sinegal voted Monday against an item usually considered a formality, citing a lawsuit against himself and Jefferson County.

According to an appeal filing in the 5th Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals, Dawn Polk, who was hired as an administrative assistant for Sinegal in 2009, ran for office against Tom Gillam III in the Democratic Primary for justice of the peace in 2012.

In the filing, Polk contended she was fired from her job after she ran against Gillam. According to Jefferson County records, the county settled with Polk for $95,000.

During the county auditor portion of the agenda, Sinegal cast a lone “no” vote for item “q” for regular county bills — checks No. 456696-456949 and checks No. 456950-457216.

Sinegal said he voted “no” to one item, which was the personal lawsuit.

“It was a lawsuit against the county and myself,” he said. “I didn’t want to settle. It had to do with the termination of a bad employee. The suit said I violated her constitutional rights, which is the furthest thing from the truth. I just wanted to send a message that I don’t think she deserved a dime.”

Sinegal said the former employee contended she was fired because she ran for public office. In her lawsuit, Polk said Sinegal initially encouraged her to run, then asked her to withdraw because her candidacy put him in a bad political position.

Sinegal said Polk was not performing her job duties, which she denied.

The lawsuit was filed in state court in 2015 and moved to federal court.

The commissioners also recognized the Julie Rogers Gift of Life program during commissioners’ court as they prepare for the Champagne and Ribs on April4.

Julie Rogers Gift of Life Director Norma Sampson said the event and free screenings for men have helped the community.

“Last year we were able to diagnose three men with prostate cancer,” she said. “Through our efforts, once we began keeping the records, we’ve been able to help 77 men who would not be here with us today if it weren’t for these services. We’re thankful to be able to do this and invite all men to come.”

The theme for this year’s event is “survivor,” based on the long-running reality television show. Sinegal, who is also a cancer survivor, is one of the event’s honorees and his picture is on the advertisement along with American Valve and Hydrant President Tim Sudela, Dr. Todd Clarke and former 58th District Court Judge Jimmy Mehaffy in “Survivor” attire.

“I’m just glad the theme wasn’t ‘Naked and Afraid’,” County Judge Jeff Branick said laughing.

“(Branick) and I used to play football together,” Sinegal said. “He’s seen me naked, but never afraid.”

The commissioners voted in favor of an inter-local agreement between the county and the city of Port Arthur for the repairs of streets. Sinegal said Port Arthur is trending in the right direction, but there is still work to be done. Sinegal thanked Precinct 2 Brent Weaver for his help with some of the streets that run into his precinct.

“I just want to fix the streets,” Sinegal said. “The city is looking pretty good. The National Forest Service is coming in and pruning trees and doing things like that. They’ve been clearing some of the grass out of the culvert and helping with drainage. I think we have some positive momentum.

Sinegal said it is important for the city to get the right city manager that knows what needs to be done. The City Council was scheduled to discuss four finalists for the position Tuesday.

“All over Port Arthur, there is a need for street maintenance,” he said. “You can throw a dart and you’re going to hit a need.”