Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough is paid $131,000 a year as the county's highest-ranking elected official.
But that's a drop in the bucket compared to what he makes for being on the board of directors for American National Insurance Company, commonly referred to as ANICO.
"They paid you almost $200,000 last year, more than you made with the county correct?"
"I don't have all that information at hand," Yarbrough answered
"You don't know how much they paid you?"
"No," the County Judge replied.
Since the County Judge doesn't seem to know how much ANICO paid him in 2009, why not check the securities filings? They show ANICO paid the County Judge over $197,000 in 2009 alone. That amount includes cash, stock, travel, lodging and leisure.
"It could have been with all the benefits, yes," Yarbrough said.
According to state law, a county judge may serve as an officer or director of an entity that does business with the county with one exception: a publicly traded corporation. ANICO became a publicly-traded corporation in 2009.
Matthew Festa is a faculty member with the South Texas College of Law. He specializes in state and local government laws.
"The legislature was pretty clear that a county judge can't sit on the board of a publicly traded corporation that does business with the government," Festa said.
"You don't see any problem with you sitting on the board of ANICO and ANICO doing business with the county?"
"ANICO does no business with Galveston County," Yarbrough replied.
"Isn't there a yearly leasing agreement you all vote on?"
"No sir," answered the County Judge.
"The fact of doing business is what's important," Festa said.
Check this out: It's a leasing agreement between Galveston County and ANICO. Every year Galveston County pays ANICO $366 to lease antenna space on top of ANICO'S building.
"While the amount involved isn't much, doesn't this invoice prove a business relationship between ANICO and Galveston County?"
"As I told you before I don't know of any," Yarbrough said. "No I don't think we do, not to my knowledge."
Guess the County Judge doesn't remember this either. Putting his signature on the leasing agreement between his two employers. We showed the lease agreement to Festa, the state law expert.
"It is business with the government," Festa said.
And it doesn't matter if the amount involved is $10 or $10,000.
"Particularly when we're talking about ethics of public officals," Festa said. "It doesn't matter what the amount is."
"I'm going to run and make a conference call at 10 o'clock and I'll probably just join you in workshop. Hopefully you all will be finished by the time I'm finished," the county judge said in video from a Commissioners Court meeting on Aug. 4.
Yarbrough left another county meeting later that same day for a conference call.
"Was that a teleconference with ANICO?"
"I don't recall," he replied.
"You don't remember that?"
"I don't remember what I left the meeting for," Yarbrough said.
"Could it have been an ANICO meeting on Aug. 4?"
"It could have been," the County Judge replied.
"It could have been? It wasn't that long ago. Why don't you remember that? I don't understand."
"I have a lot of conference calls and alot of meetings I attend and I don't recall that particular date," Yarbrough said.
Judge Yarbrough now recalls the leasing agreement, weeks after we first asked about it. Yarbrough told us he did some checking and found the leasing agreement between ANICO and the county is a business arrangement. Yarbrough said he will be abstaining from voting on the agreement in the future and thanked us for bringing it to his attention.