The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Corruption And Rural Texas

Seems that my dad's home county has a problem with budgets and corruption:

RAYMONDVILLE — Willacy County's third auditor in two years has announced he's leaving in the middle of work on a new budget, telling county commissioners, "I'm not going to get ulcers for no job."

Auditor Salvador Pendas, on the job less than nine months, made his announcement at a meeting Monday. He said today would be his last day.

The county has been in financial straits since a former auditor last year admitted to embezzling $65,000. The state threatened to pull all grant money unless it straightened out its books.

The county is also embroiled in a scandal involving a $14.5 million federal prison contract. In January, former Willacy County Commissioners Jose Jimenez, 67, of Sebastian and Israel Tamez, 58, of Raymondville pleaded guilty to accepting more than $10,000 each from companies wanting work contracts for the prison.

Willacy County went from having $1.5 million in reserves in 1998 to being about $1.15 million in debt at the end of the 2001-2002 fiscal year.

Pendas, who said he already has another job, said he lacked qualified help to prepare long-overdue audits for fiscal years 2002-03 and 2003-04.

A panel of state district judges appointed Pendas late last year. The job pays about $48,000.

He replaced Auditor Walter Thannisch, who resigned for treatment of prostate cancer. Thannisch replaced former Auditor Armando Rubalcaba, who was fired after pleading no contest to stealing $65,000 in county funds.

Commissioner Emilio Vera asked Pendas if he could leave a list of the county's financial weak points.

Honestly, can't say that I'm surprised.