Brown County: Attorney General Releases Report Regarding "Allegations of Misconduct"

BROWN COUNTY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) - Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, released a report  stating his opinon regarding the investigation into "allegations of misconduct" in Brown County.

His findings conclude that "a court would likely conclude that section 45.125 does not authorize the Brown County Attorney's office to require an accused to pay an amount to that office as a condition of a pretrial intervention agreement..."

According to Paxton's report:

Section 45.125 of the Government Code authorizes the purpose of financing or assisting the operation of the attorney's office. A court would likely conclude that section 45.125 does not authorize the Brown County Attorney's office to require an accused to pay an amount to that office as a condition of a pretrial intervention agreement in addition to or in excess of the fee authorized by article 102.0121 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. No statue authorizes a criminal court to order a defendant to pay a gift or grant under section 45.125 of the Government Code.

Brown County Pretrial Diversion Donation Fund: Fees in Lieu of Prosecution

Previously, County officials told KTAB and KRBC the investigation stems from allegations that a former Brown County program that kept misdemeanor offenders out of jail involved bribery, missing money, and misuse of funds. 

The Pretrial Diversion program overseen by County Attorney Shane Britton was established in 2007 as a way for his office to generate revenue without using taxpayer funds.

The program, originally only available to DWI offenders but later extended to all misdemeanor offenders, allowed these offenders to pay Britton's office a fee, referred to as a donation, to keep their criminal case out of the court system.

This program was in operation from 2007 to in 2014. Britton says the practice of his officer accepting these was phased out when the County adopted their current system, the Brown County Misdemeanor First Time Offender Program, that was modeled after similar programs in other counties in the state.

Shane Britton says that "no defendant has agreed to pay a donation since 2014," and that the fees collected through the current pretrial diversion program go to the probation department.

Missing Money: Cash Disappears from Pretrial Diversion Fund

At least one incident of missing money has also been connected to this donation fund.

In December of 2014, a Brown County woman was charged with shoplifting, and instead of going through court, she decided to utilize the pretrial diversion program, and agreed to pay Britton's office $250 in lieu of prosecution.

She paid the fine in January of 2015, but in March of 2015, she was notified the fee had been increased to the maximum and he license had been suspended due to non-payment.

She then called the office of Judge Jim Cavanaugh and notified his clerk that she had paid back in January.

Judge Cavanaugh's office then called Britton's office, and when his clerk was asked about the payment, she said she misplaced the money order and tried to pay in cash.

In his letter to Attorney General Paxton, Shane Britton says his clerk, "resigned in lieu of termination" related to the missing $250. He claims he then notified local authorities and "requested that an outside audit be performed on all County Attorney financial records to ensure there was no other money missing."

This matter was still not resolved in May of 2015 when Judge Cavanaugh decided to alert state authorities who began an investigation and then turned that investigation over to the FBI.

He says that although Britton's clerk was no longer employed at his office and he had scheduled an audit, Judge Cavanaugh stated, "there is nothing to indicate that the matter had been turned over to the appropriate law enforcement agency for further investigation."

KTAB and KRBC are still waiting to learn the results of that investigation.

 

 

To read more in depth information on the investigation, check out our previous article.


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