Residents accuse San Augustine Co. Commissioners of illegal spending

By Jena Johnson - bio | email

SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) – The San Augustine County Commissioners Court held a public hearing concerning the proposed 2011 budget Thursday morning. However, the conversation turned to the $1.6 million loan the county took out in July. Residents say they are fuming over what the call illegal spending.

Dozens of concerned residents with serious accusations demand answers from the San Augustine County Commissioners Court. Bill Simmons says they broke the Texas government code when they took $1.6 million loan after the 2010 budget was already approved.

"This commissioners court may spend funds only in strict compliance with the budget except an emergency and I don't think the purchased equipment was an emergency," Simmons told commissioners.

According to the Texas code, the court may authorize emergency spending only in a case of grave public necessity to meet an unusual and unforeseen condition that could not have been included in the original budget. One commissioner's $45,000 truck was one of the items purchased with that money.

"There was no emergency to get pickups and new equipment," said Simmons.

How the trucks were purchased also raises questions. Receipts show the county bought the pickups on different days. According to the Texas law, it's illegal for a government employee to make separate purchases to avoid the competitive bidding requirements. Loretta Bedford says the commissioners didn't acknowledge this concern.

"I think they could have given some justification or they should have said we didn't know about it or we recognize this they simply ignored most of the people's responses," said Bedford.

"He does not have to answer to me, but I am a tax payer and I am in this county and he has to answer to somebody and come election time he will answer."

Residents aren't the only ones commissioners may have to answer to. This could be a criminal matter, according to the Texas code.

According to the Texas code, knowingly avoiding competitive bids is a Class B Misdemeanor, which is punishable by a $2,000 fine and jail time.

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