2017-03-15 / Front Page

Sheriff’s Dept.use of grant funds under investigation by Texas Rangers

BY TONY VINDELL
Reporter


Sheriff Larry Spence Sheriff Larry Spence The Texas Rangers and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are now investigating Willacy County Sheriff ’s department’s overtime practices and Sheriff Larry Spence believes some one under him is responsible for the investigation.

Three Rangers and two DHS officers came by his office Thursday, saying they wanted to look into the files concerning overtime pay.

In particular, how much overtime money the department paid to its deputies from a Homeland Security and Local Border grant program.

In local parlance, the grants are referred to as Stone Garden and Border Stars.

The department, through the county, pays the overtime hours a deputy puts in and gets reimbursed afterwards.

Spence said he has been infuriated by the leaks and suspects someone within his department is either disgruntled or upset at something.

“Someone called in,” he said. “If some one has been doing something wrong, it should have been brought to my attention.”

The sheriff, who is serving his 33rd year in office, said the investigators looked into the files, took some with them and said they will come back at a later date to talk to his deputies.

He said they said they had no arrest warrants, no indictments, but wanted to look into the files at this moment.

“We relied on those grants and I would hate to see this jeopardizing that,” he said. “We are short handed and last year’s budget cuts are taking a toll on us.”

The sheriff’s department has 17 deputies plus many others who work at the jail.

“We have 50 some people working here and 50 plus personalities,” Spence said. “This is leaving a bad taste in my mouth.”

The sheriff said he has been trying to find out how much money his department gets from the two grants, but the person in charge of that information has been out of the office.

According to the county auditor’s office, the sheriff’s department has an active DHS grant for $140,000 from June 1, 2016 through Aug. 31, 2017.

A total of $128,870 of that amount was budgeted for personnel and more than $11,000 for supplies.

A grant application for $112,000 was submitted this year and is under review.

And from the Local Border Security grant, the department received a grant for $49,997 and another for $34,996 for the period ending Aug. 31, 2016.

A grant for $50,000 is to end August 31, 2017.

Spence said he will wait for the outcome of this new issue.

“I have not slept well in the last four nights,” he said. “This could have a ripple effect on this department and on the county as well.”

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