Program note: More from Gary Tuchman on this story tonight on AC 360º at 10 P.M. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/15/art.check.jpg" caption="A former District Attorney paid his secretaries nearly $80,000 in bonuses, with public cash."]
How much do you think it would pay if you got a job as a secretary working for your county? In Jim Wells County, Texas, which is just west of Corpus Christi, we are told the typical salary is $35,000 a year. So how do you bump up that salary? Well, one way is to have worked for the former District Attorney of the county. You see, three of Joe Frank Garza’s secretaries got extra money totaling more than 1.1 million dollars over a five year period.
That’s an average of more than $80,000 extra dollars a year.
Why? Well, Garza, who is now a private attorney, says they were loyal and excellent employees. Now, in the private sector, you could probably get that kind of raise with controversy only coming from fellow workers who might be jealous. But in the public sector, it’s a different story, particularly with where this money came from. It wasn’t from the regular office budget, but from a so called forfeiture fund. When certain suspects are arrested, they sometimes have to forfeit money and valuables. That cash can then go to police and district attorneys for their spending pleasure. But in the case of D.A.’s in Texas, it must be spent for “official purposes.” This former D.A. says compensating his secretaries was an official purpose because they were such excellent employees. What is particularly stunning is that more than 50 percent of the money he received in his forfeiture fund between 2004-2008 went to these three women. We’ve learned that from an auditors report done on behalf of the county. The former D.A. doesn’t deny giving the secretaries a lot of money, but says he would not do anything differently. The new D.A. though, who beat Garza this past November to get the job, says he should have done things much differently and has now sent the auditor’s report to lawyers in the Attorney General’s office in Texas to get their take.
And by the way, just in case you were wondering, the three secretaries left their jobs when their boss left his.
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