Three Strikes for Tarrant County

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Tarrant County officials would like taxpayers to think they have had a run of bad luck with their audits. The truth is there is clearly a culture of disregard for the law in the offices of those that are sworn to uphold it.

Tarrant County Auditor, Renee Tidwell, has reported yet another failing grade to the Tarrant County Commissioners Court. The latest black mark on the County record was the August audit of Constable Michael Campbell, Precinct 8.

Direct Action Texas first uncovered the troublesome audit of Precinct 5 Constable Ruben Garcia. The audit of his office uncovered missing cash, a complete lack of control over drugs and guns seized in his precinct, and more.

Then came Precinct 6 Justice of the Peace Gary Ritchie. His office’s failure has already resulted in 7 indictments for Ritchie’s Court Administrator and close confidant, Shelly Ables. The charges include unlawfully acquiring property valued between $20,000 and $100,000, mishandling property for which she was a fiduciary, and multiple counts of making a false entry on a governmental record with intent to defraud.

The latest audit was performed on the office of Constable Michael Campbell, Precinct 8. The Tarrant County Auditor’s office found similar issues to those of Constable Garcia and JP Ritchie. Tidwell’s office found yet another clear case of a lack of controls and oversight in Precinct 8.

Two out of seven of the deputies’ receipt books were completely missing and the others were filled with errors. These receipt books hold each deputy accountable for the money they collect from taxpayers. According to the audit, a failure to maintain these books represents a “significant material risk of theft or loss of funds.”

When the receipt books were actually turned in, the full amounts were not properly recorded. Specifically, payments collected for NSF checks were not recorded into the Mainframe system. The Constable’s fees were entered into the system, but not the amounts paid to cover the checks. These were taxpayer dollars, collected mostly in cash, not being reported to the Auditor’s office. Once again, this lack of accountability could result in money disappearing into the pockets of government employees.

The Property Room was also poorly managed. Seized, forfeited, and unclaimed property should be disposed of within 90 days. That was clearly not the case in Precinct 8. In the words of the Auditor’s office:

In the end, the ultimate responsibility should fall on the person elected to the office of Constable of Precinct 8. Michael Campbell was entrusted with that office and is expected to serve the taxpayers of Precinct 8 to the best of his ability. Does this audit reflect his best?

Where are the County Commissioners? How long will they remain silent? The Commissioners Court should publicly admonish these office holders for allowing such rampant incompetence to occur on their watch. What have they done to fix this clear epidemic? True, Ritchie’s Court Administrator has been indicted, but what about Ritchie? What about Constables Campbell and Garcia? County Auditor Renee Tidwell did her job.  It is time for the Commissioner’s Court to ask the District Attorney to step in and investigate.

Read the full audit HERE.

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