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2012-11-15

Blessedly, all is calm in county

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

During a relatively short session on Thursday, Nov. 8, Bandera County Commissioners took care of the nuts and bolts of running the county.
One portion of a three-part agenda item was postponed until the submission of supporting documents. Commissioners readily certified the 2012 Asset Forfeiture Report for the county attorney's office and the Bandera County Sheriff's Office; however, they decided against approving that of the 216th Judicial District Attorney's office.
"A neighboring county lost a DA and district judge because of problems with this," noted Judge Richard Evans. "To be honest, I don't want to sign this document." And neither he, nor the commissioners did.
The Bandera County Courier provided extensive coverage of the kerfuffle in the 198th Judicial District in October 2009. The previous month, District Judge Emil Karl Prohl had resigned in the wake of an investigation into alleged illegal use of asset forfeiture funds - money derived from criminal acts.
Additionally, former 198th District Attorney Ron Sutton became a second casualty after he gave Prohl checks totaling $14,500 from the forfeiture fund for office training, conferences and equipment and a criminal law conference. Additionally, Prohl also reportedly received - from the same source - a portion of $21,475 for conferences in Hawaii, as well as $6,000 for "per diem" expenses during the conferences, which were sponsored by the Texas Independent Bar Association.
Given the previous problems with suspect use of the funds, it was evidence Evans and the commissioners expressed reluctance to sign off the third part of the forfeiture fund audit at this time.
In other business, for a third consecutive year, the court unanimously approved continuing an interlocal agreement between Lubbock County and Bandera counties for the Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases. Funded by the Texas Indigent Defense Commission Multi-Year Discretionary Grant Program, the agreement provides court-appointed counsel for individuals charged with capital murder, who are unable to pay for counsel.
Earlier, it had been revealed that the cost of a capital trial could easily bankrupt small rural counties. The interlocal agreement serves as a much-needed cushion for those counties.
"A sliding scale of costs has been added to the agreement, which also helps us," Evans said. "The agreement has also been expanded to include more counties." County Attorney John Payne reviewed the interlocal agreement to commissioners' satisfaction.
In the plus column, commissioners received their share of the fuel tax collected by the county, which amounts - according to the court - to the paltry sum of $20,723, which accounts for .003 percent of the tax collected.
Earmarked for county roads, the $20K increased the 2012-2013 budget of road and bridge department.
The county's percentage of the tax has not increased since 1950, Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris pointed out. "For years, we're tried to get the state legislature to address this without success."
Also in the plus column, changes in contracts with Pitney Bowes for a postage machine in the tax office and with Xerox for a copy machine in the county attorney's office will result in monthly savings of $480.