My SA News...
This should be a lesson for all who hold the public's trust. I partically blame the public though. County gevernments are million dollar operations owned by the public at large. The public should check on the "company they own" on a periodic basis via the TPIA. We all speed down the highway when we think the DPS is nowhere to be found, yet we hit the brake in .2 nanoseconds when we think someone is looking.
I don't know Ron Sutton. It seems to me the charges arise primarily from Sutton's trips to conferences in Hawaii. Who is to say those trips are illegal or theft? Did those conferences have absolutely no law enforcement or training value? Did he not attend any of the sessions? What definitive guidance has there been regarding the use of forfeiture funds? The attorney general's office has from to time attempted to define the boundary lines for using forfeiture funds. For the longest time, the only test for determining whether forfeiture funds have been misappropriated appears to be Justice Potter Stewart's test for determining hard-core porn: "I know it when I see it". I hope the Texas Attorney General's Office adopts guidelines for the use of forfeiture funds until the legislature clarifies the issue. I would recommend adopting the U.S. Treasury Department's Guide to Equitable Sharing as an interim guide for the use of forfeited funds. They may require some modifications for Texas law enforcement agencies but they are probably a good starting point.
FWIW, the article seemed to indicate the spouses' trips also were paid for with forfeiture funds. If true, you don't need the AG to tell you that's not smart.
My understanding from a PI who works in the 198th district is that Sutton was writing checks payable to Judge Prohl with forfeiture funds to attend these conferences. Judge Prohl sat on those forfeiture cases which is why he resigned in lieu of disciplinary action after the Commission on Judicial Conduct investigated the allegations. Such action on Sutton's part lead to the missapplication indictment. An attorney close to Sutton told me after the indictment Prohl was next in line.
It would be helpful to see the indictment.
Many prosecutors supported the passage of SB 1529 by Sen. Whitmire last session, which was designed to specifically address situations like this (and others). That bill died in the fallout from voter ID, but look for it to be re-introduced next session.
If you give your commissioners's court neither a proposed budget nor an end-of-the-year expenditure report, have you committed a felony, a misdemeanor, neither one or both?
I can't find any penalty provisions in Chapter 59. Are they located somewhere else? I understand that Sutton is indicted for mispplicatin of funds by a fiduciary, but that is a penal code violation. Are there penelties for failing to file with you commissioners or to follow other provisions of Chapt 59?
No penalties in Ch. 59, but under some circumstances, failure to abide by its requirements could form the basis for an official misconduct prosecution or a removal lawsuit.
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