When the subject of how to divide up the nearly $40,000 seized in illegal game rooms, County Attorney Wes Hinch explained to commissioners’ court Tuesday that there are specific state laws that regulate the use of seizure funds by law enforcement agencies.
Apparently in response to complaints about the secrecy of both the county attorney’s and the district attorney’s handling of seizures, Hinch began his public defense by saying “There is no slush fund”. Hinch’s evidently prepared a rebuttal and decided to use the commissioners’ court for answering his detractors who have been questioning for months why he does not have to publicly account for every dime of money his office makes through their hot check collections. Rather than account for the money, Hinch claimed hot check money funds 50% of his department.
Hinch’s offered as proof of his innocence a legal rendering of the law about when counties seize funds that were used in felony drug trafficking cases, gambling proceeds and money collected from fees charged for hot checks, officials like him can legally spend that money on training, legal education and can also be used by law enforcement officials in undercover operations to purchase narcotics. Hinch (ignoring the fact most taxpayers work Monday through Friday and that few are accountants or lawyers) welcomed anyone to review the records of the fund usage by his office.
So what did taxpayers learn about the way Hinch has spent money from seizures. They learned if they want to take a day off and bring their lawyer or their accountant Hinch says they can look at his books. Taxpayers have been left with no explanation of why the nearly $2,000,000 of money currently controlled by D.A. Mike Little and the hot check money collected by Wes Hinch.
Even if we simply consider the way Hinch pointed to ways the money can be used, we are left with more questions than we had before. The first question would be about the SUV said to be paid for by these funds from seizures and also said to be casually driven around by D.A. Mike Little. Is that legal? Who pays for the gas? Where can he drive this vehicle? Is it okay he parks this at his house? Is he claiming this on his income taxes? Hinch’s little speech in commissioners’ court should make us more suspicious about Little’s use of the money than ever before.
Lawyer/politicians telling the public to just come down and look at their records is nonsense. These two men need to come clean and put out a public accounting of OUR MONEY. How much money has been taken in? Taxpayers deserve a detailed accounting of incoming and outgoing money.
Hinch telling us how the money “should” be spent has some holes in it too. First, and most obvious, is the unanswered question whether it was spent within the rules. Second, has there been an abuse within the rules. For instance, has an unreasonable amount been spent on training – trips and hotel rooms and expenses that qualify as “training” could easily been abused.
But let’s simplify for Hinch and Little. While our readers deserve open and honest government and answers to all of these questions, with we want to start with three items:
1) An explanation of Little’s SUV.
2) An explanation from Liberty County DA Mike Little of where he has spent seized monies for the past ten years.
3) The cessation of excuses about how we are too broke to deal with the county’s juvenile problem and action on this matter.
Next time Hinch stands up to “speechify” and pretend to be leveling with the taxpayers of this county, how about covering these three questions. We are prepared to get behind Hinch if he will quit making excuses and quit blaming his lack of action on the budget or anything else. But Hinch is well over halfway through his first term and if is unable to question Little about an Little's "Slush Fund" and SUV many of us see him drive and if he is not going to deal with our youth, we need to elect someone who will do this job.