“Mrs. Watts said she was disappointed in me and I want to clarify things,” Garcia said.
At the previous meeting, Watts questioned the police department’s budget, which she said is at 40 percent with seven months remaining before the end of the fiscal year in September.
Included in the 40 percent was an $11,000 payment for attorney’s fees that did not come to light during the previous meeting. The fees were paid to investigate possible litigation stemming from a complaint letter received from a former police officer.
A vehicle was also purchased using police department funds which also did not come to light. The city stands to be reimbursed from Stone Garden, a state-run homeland security grant.”
“Why was $11,000 taken out of the police department budget?” asked Councilman Ron Nelson. “That isn’t right. It should have come out of administration or from reserves, not out of the police department’s budget. If y’all are going to play that game, well, it’s just not right.”
City secretary Callie Shreckengost said she and Mayor Rey Jaso made the call. Neither Shreckengost or Jaso mentioned the expenditures when Garcia was questioned by Watts during the previous meeting.
“When was (the $11,000) approved?” asked Councilman Frank Hosey. “I can’t believe nobody questioned it that night.”
Last week, Hosey said requests from individual council members to department heads, without council knowledge puts them at a disadvantage.
“We are in the dark because one person ordered something and nobody else knew about it,” Hosey said. “The rest of us didn’t know about that check to the attorneys. We don’t see the bills until the night of the meeting.”
Watts appeared to be satisfied with Garcia’s explanation.
“Now, he has come back with the answer to my questions,” Watts said. “I questioned the 40 percent and now he gave me the answer.”
Watts said she didn’t know about the $11,000.
Last Friday, Jaso said the percentages didn’t seem that importance to him, especially considering where the fire department stands.
“The fire department is at 105 percent of their budget,” Jaso said last week. “Most of the other departments are close.”
Garcia also told the council Tuesday night that the police department had extensive work done at the annex and PD, including painting and repairs, not just erecting a fence.
“A lot of work was done at the training facility,” Garcia said.
The facility is used for Little League meetings and for various training by several different groups.
“We wanted it to have a good presentation,” Garcia said.
The back lots were cleaned, a dilapidated building was torn down and removed.
“You’ve been talking about beautifying the city and we wanted to set an example,” Garcia said.
Up until this point, drug funds have been used for everything, Garcia told the council. But now drug funds are almost gone.
Watts also questioned the residency of the construction crew that performed the work. Garcia said he has met with Immigration and Naturalization officials to schedule a training session on ways to distinguish proper paperwork for immigrants.
The construction crew has been doing work in the county for at least seven years, Garcia said, and the fence and labor were paid partly from drug funds and partly from municipal funds.
When Garcia was appointed interim police chief and took control of the drug forfeiture funds, the fund contained $20,040 with $432 in outstanding bills. The drug fund is the only one controlled by the PD.
During the previous meeting, the council took the PD’s checks and deposit slips away until Garcia submitted a budget.
“I can never remember Chief Brock presenting a budget for the drug fund the entire time he was here,” Jaso said last week.
Former city secretary Lillian Linney also told Shreckengost that no budget had ever been filed by the PD for forfeiture funds. Nor has Shreckengost ever seen one.
The first request for a budget was made in January by council member Garrett Engelking who cited current allegations of misuse of funds by Chief Chris Brock who is currently on administrative leave without pay. Brock is awaiting trial on three felony counts.
Last week, Engelking said he got an affirmative answer when he checked with Texas Municipal League to see if the council could require a budget.
“It’s like shutting the gate after the horses are out,” Nelson said after the meeting two weeks ago. “It’s a little ridiculous.”
The drug forfeiture fund grew to $2,096,808 after a major seizure was made by then police officer Shelly Haertig. A major portion of the seizure money was spent on purchasing the current police department and annex.
“The day the chief was put on administrative leave, I called the bank and got the balance,” said Marina Balucek, police clerk. “As of Sept. 24, 2009, there was only $20,040 in the fund.”
At the end of each fiscal year the drug forfeiture account contained:
• 2002 – $2,096,808
• 2004 - $1,078,189
• 2005 - $796,295
• 2006 – $487,134
• 2007 - $288,048
• 2008 - $68,682
September 24, 2009 – $20,040
In other matters, a bid of $1,000 was accepted for a Refugio PD vehicle.
The PD agreed to go out for bids on the vehicle after Engelking questioned a previous agreement between Nelson and Garcia to purchase the vehicle for $4,000 - the blue-book value. Although the bidding procedure was not required because the vehicle was purchased with drug funds, Nelson withdrew his offer.
During the meeting Engelking said the bid was too low, but Nelson made a motion to accept the bid and the motion carried.