The Travis County Sheriff recently overspent almost $200,000 of taxpayer money due to her lack of due diligence and her intent to undermine state and federal immigration laws.
The story began last fall, when Gov. Greg Abbott approved a $23 million grant to give rifle resistant vests to police departments across the state. Roughly 33,000 vests were purchased for more than 450 departments.
Travis County, however, refused to apply for the grant. Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez declined to apply because the Governor made it a condition that law enforcement agencies receiving state equipment cooperate in the enforcement of state and national immigration laws.
For instance, local police departments would be required to detain illegal aliens identified by federal immigration authorities for deportation. Hernandez called the requirement “arbitrary and capricious,” and sought an alternate way to fund vests for Travis County officers.
In March, the sheriff’s office approached the county commissioners court with a proposal. “The TCSO has identified one time internal resources to provide 574 vests at $500 each for a total cost of $287,000,” wrote Alan Miller, assistant budget director for the county’s planning and budget office.
Hernandez echoed that amount in her own memo. “The vest that my staff has agreed on costs approximately $500 each, including carrier, plates, ID panel, and pouches… at this price, the overall cost to Travis County to equip all appropriate TCSO staff and including the number of vests requested by other county departments during grant preparations will total about $287,000.”
Texas Scorecard requested records related to the purchase and discovered the sheriff’s office spent almost $200,000 more than what they had publicly stated. The vests turned out to cost upwards of $800 each, not the $500 that was quoted.
We wanted to know how such a simple and costly miscalculation could have occurred, so we sent open records requests for email correspondence between the Sheriff and her finance team regarding the purchase.
The sheriff’s office initially replied that, for a service charge of roughly $200, we could obtain the emails or even come into their office to inspect them. However, when Texas Scorecard said we would accept the cost, the office replied that they did not want to release the emails after all, and sent a letter to the Texas Attorney General claiming they’re exempt from disclosure.
We are currently awaiting a decision from the AG’s office on whether we will have access to the emails, but in the meantime, serious questions remain. Who was involved in or recommended such a poorly managed transaction, and why does the sheriff’s office wish to hide what happened?
This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.