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DA Watch: DA Money in the News – and There’s a Lot of It

The District Attorney for Dallas — the one seen nationwide in the Dallas DNA television series this past year — is making the news again, and this time it’s not about crime.

It’s about money.

Seems that DA Craig Watkins asked the county for a 10% increase in his annual budget of $35.9 million. What came back to him was a request that he cut his current budget by 10% instead. Needless to say, DA Watkins is very, very unhappy with this response.

County commissioners are writing letters asking Watkins to go along with them and Watkins is responding that he’s being insulted and called incompetent at his job.

Creative Budgeting Down in Alice

You gotta shake your head at this one, especially when the DA Budget story out of Alice, Texas, is also making news right now.

Seems that Fort Bend County’s ex-district attorney is giving more details on how he was using the forfeiture funds to boost his district attorney office budget. According to news reports, Joe Frank Garza spent confiscated money and redistributed the following funds over a four-year period for such things as:

  • $376,670 to one legal secretary (Lydia Chapa)
  • $378,417 to another legal secretary (Sandy Harrel)
  • #380,289 to the guy who ran the crime victims services department (Mickey Quintero).

That averages to approximately $100,000/year that the Alice, Texas district attorney took from the forfeiture funds and paid these staff members (thought it was through expense reimbursements, etc. and not just cash on the desk). Garza is defending himself, saying this was totally legal.

Where does Dallas DNA fit into the Dallas DA Budget?

Meanwhile, back to pondering the Dallas DA situation. Aside from the legality of dipping hands into the forfeiture funds (which the courts down in Alice are determining now, thanks to ex-DA Garza), another question comes to mind: where did the cash go from the six-part series Dallas DNA?

Surely the District Attorney’s office has been paid by the Discovery Channel for its services here. And surely someone got paid for DA Watkins doing things like appearing on ABC’s “The View” to promote the show.

With DA Watkins crying out that he’s losing experienced prosecutors due to grants not being renewed, then what about creative funding of the office?

Where does this fit in the current Dallas Budget Brouhaha? How creative can Texas DAs be when it comes to budgeting for their offices?

If it’s legal for the Alice DA to use forfeiture funds to meet his budget, then is it legal for the Dallas DA to support his budget with a national TV show? And — is he??? Curious by its absence is any information on this issue in a cursory Google search ….

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