Updated

Judge says he'll likely OK hiring of outside auditor

By CRAIG KAPITAN

Eagle Staff Writer

County Judge Randy Sims said Tuesday he will likely approve an idea proposed by District Attorney Bill Turner to hire an outside auditor to look over the top prosecutor’s books.

Turner made the proposal Monday during a budget workshop in which he presented his needs for the upcoming fiscal year.

“This year the auditor and a district judge announced I could not rely on the county auditor to audit my accounts,” Turner wrote in his proposal to the commissioners court. “I must have my accounts audited.”

The expenditure, Turner estimated, will cost the county $5,000. Officials present at the workshop, however, speculated that it will cost several thousand dollars more.

In June, Turner announced that he asked the Attorney General’s Office and the Texas Rangers to investigate a victim’s restitution fund once operated by his office. It was missing $200,000.

A retired district attorney’s office employee who used to do the paperwork for the fund is suspected of having skimmed from the account over a 19-year period, but no arrests have yet been made.

Since the announcement, Turner and County Auditor John Reynolds have expressed differing opinions as to whose responsibility it was to detect the foul play.

Reynolds has said that because the account was not under the control of the probation department, it was not his responsibility to look over it.

Turner has countered that Reynolds’ predecessor in the auditor’s office set up the accounting system for the office. If Reynolds wasn’t looking over the account, Turner has said, he was never informed of it.

“I’m not trying to cry over spilled milk,” Turner told the commissioners during his Monday presentation, adding that his request wasn’t an attempt to “force an issue.”

“I just need to make sure my accounts are audited,” he said.

Reynolds, who sat in on all of the budget sessions, suggested that the county hire a special auditor versed in county government issues.

But despite the county judge’s support, Turner’s proposal won’t likely be accepted as-is, Sims said.

County officials will probably take the expenditure out of the district attorney’s budget and mark it as a general expense for the county, he said. It is also possible the county will ask the auditor’s office to hire the independent evaluator, Sims said.

“I just think that makes a lot of sense to keep it separated,” he said.

Sims said he plans to present the altered proposal to the full Commissioners Court for approval.

“We want to make that available to him,” he said, explaining that an outside auditor might be able to give the district attorney “a little more intense” of an evaluation. “I think this is a good idea.”

• Craig Kapitan’s e-mail address is ckapitan@theeagle.com.

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