A recent audit of a Tarrant County constable found several possible violations of state law, including failure to document drugs and other property seized, along with cash collected by field deputies. Whether or not the local District Attorney’s office will open a criminal investigation into the scandal remains an open question.
Democrat Constable Ruben Garcia (Precinct 5) is the elected official ultimately responsible for overseeing the runaway agency. Two days after receiving the audit report, he sent the auditor a letter claiming, “everything was addressed.” Critics are right to be skeptical.
The June 12 report detailed six key observations, many of which could amount to egregious violations of state law:
- Controls over the accountability of manual receipts and the recording of payments were inadequate
- Certain receipts collected by deputies were not recorded
- Segregation of duties was inadequate
- Disposition of seized and held property was not performed properly
- Deposits were not always made
- The Office of Attorney General was not properly invoiced for court papers
Several alarming observations were explained in detail in the auditor’s report. Manual log books given to deputies to track payments they collect in the field had not been updated since 2005. The administrative office had not logged payments collected into the county’s mainframe accounting system, as required. Payments collected by the constable’s office on behalf of other agencies – mostly cash – were also not recorded into the mainframe.
Staff were caught inappropriately approving their own hours and overtime, and even making purchases, on behalf of the constable.
Most shocking, the constable did not maintain a log of acquired and seized property, which would include money, weapons, and drugs. Although unclaimed property is supposed to be disposed of in 90 days, the audit found seized property in the constable’s safe that was acquired as far back as the year 2000.
Garcia is in hot water. But Tarrant County taxpayers should be concerned about why this constable’s office has apparently not been audited in over a decade.
The scandal raises serious concerns about Tarrant County government. What other rampant mismanagement is taking place without any oversight?