OPINION: Show Me The Money

by John (Robinhawk) Hawkins john@thecherokeean.com

Are we still looking for the money? That’s the question I hear constantly. Whenever I attend the Cherokee County Commissioners’ Court meeting, I hear the amounts of money that are being thrown around that boggles the mind of us regular working people. $10 million here or there, and tens of thousands for new equipment or trucks seems to be on every monthly court agenda.
The approximate budget for each precinct is around $1.4 million. That’s a lot of cash. Add to that the $10 million the county will receive from the federal government for the “American Rescue Funds Plan” (ARPA), each of the four commissioners will have an extra $2 million, or around $3.4 million, for each precinct to work with in the coming year. When you have numbers and amounts that high, I suppose the missing $431,000 doesn’t seem to be much, but I can guarantee you, with few exceptions, almost any of our local small businesses or citizens could use a little of it just to get through to the next payday.

For almost a year and a half, I’ve heard one excuse after another from the DA’s office. “The DPS officer that was investigating has died and we have to start all over.” “There are more important cases we need to focus on, such as murders and pedophiles.” This may be out of context, but prosecuting a former manager for $8,000 but ignoring $431,000? That just doesn’t make sense.

Let me remind you that the money that was taken is OUR money. I work 6, sometimes 7, days a week trying to make a living, while at the same time paying my fair share of taxes. Business taxes, personal taxes, property taxes … and when I see my money (or yours), in reality, just simply being flushed down the toilet (hidden behind a smoke screen), it’s unconscionable.
I asked the DA why he didn’t request a special prosecutor to oversee the case regarding the missing tax office funds, and he was shocked at my suggestion. It’s been a year and a half. Why hasn’t the case been taken before a Grand Jury? Why don’t we have an unbiased special prosecutor? Why hasn’t anyone been arrested” The “investigation” taking over a year and a half? Where is the money?

Whoever might have taken the money from the tax office has now had ample time to get any funds or assets out of his or her name, which would mean there probably isn’t money to recover. The most common comment I get while out talking to people is they think that nothing will be done. It’s the “old boy, cronyism system” at work. At this point, I have to say I agree. We need to have a special prosecutor appointed and a visiting judge to try the case. This would eliminate any hint of favoritism or coverup. If there isn’t anyone to charge for theft, then it’s maybe a history of sloppy bookkeeping in the tax office and that should be addressed as well. $431,000 can’t just vanish … but apparently it has.

Meanwhile, an interesting press release came to my office a few days ago:

AUSTIN – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued this statement today following the Texas Senate’s bipartisan passage of Senate Bills 20 and 21, Removing District Attorneys & Judges Who Refuse to Follow Texas Law, both by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston:

“Texans unapologetically believe in the rule of law and expect their judges and district attorneys to follow Texas law. SB 20 and SB 21 are two of my top priorities this session because it is unacceptable that rogue district attorneys and judges, primarily in big cities, are not following our laws. These bills send a clear message that their delinquent behavior will not be tolerated.”

Although Senator Huffman may have authored these bills due to what may have transpired in larger courtrooms, it protects smaller ones from district officials who refuse to do their jobs. With this legislation, district judges and district attorneys are reminded that their duty first and foremost is to the community they represent. Period.