July 15th, 2009
09:08 PM ET

The best secretarial job in Texas

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."]

Gary Tuchman
AC360º Correspondent

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.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Gary Tuchman • Keeping Them Honest
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Judy Geraci

    Seems like a family member is a part of this

    July 15, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  2. Judy

    I bet they left their jobs when he left office! Alice is a small town
    ( I grew up there) and I have to shake my head when I hear this.
    There is more to this story, I would love to know what the real motive
    was for giving them the money. Forfeiture laws are misused
    but there need to be better guidelines set in place to avoid
    the misuse of the funds.

    July 15, 2009 at 11:01 pm |
  3. Andrea Hoxie

    Sometimes I am ashamed to be a Texan. This is one such time.

    July 15, 2009 at 11:00 pm |
  4. Frank in Upstate, NY

    This story is reminiscent of a nursery rhyme:
    Jack and Jill went up the hill.
    They both had a dollar and a quarter ($1.25).
    Jill came down with two dollars and fifty cents ($2.50).
    Do you think they went up there for water?

    July 15, 2009 at 11:00 pm |
  5. Joel Payne

    This is so wrong, legally stealing money from travelers......another reason the drug war has gone aray..........

    July 15, 2009 at 10:58 pm |
  6. Annie Kate


    Secretaries around here in Alabama make less than 30,000 a year; usually you have to be an executive secretary to make a livable wage. The forfeited money should never have gone to these women. If it couldn't be returned to its original owner then it should have been turned over to the state to be applied to important projects or pay down debt. The gravy train should benefit more than just 3 secretaries no matter how good they are.

    July 15, 2009 at 10:26 pm |