Monday, December 3, 2012

McLennan Court to close books on court security fund

Waco – County Commissioners will likely close one of the strangest chapters in local law enforcement history when they certify an audit of the forfeiture fund account Tuesday.

Though the 2011-2012 budget called for a set amount to guard the entrances to the courthouse in order to keep guns, knives and handcuff keys from being a threat at court proceedings, the actual amount paid to outside police agencies to perform the task exceeded the budget within the first three months.

At the time, the Court scrambled around and transferred some money from the medical budget to cover the shortfall.

Sheriff Larry Lynch informed the Court, as prescribed by statute.

When today's audit clears, the Sheriff's Department will have spent about $12.5 thousand dollars in funds forfeited by defendants as contraband. The figure includes no vehicles or boats, or other property, according to the paperwork. The two other agencies that could have shared in the forfeiture fund – the DA's office and the long-defunct Agriplex Drug Task Force – had no participation in the proceeds.

Where did the money go?

Waco and Hewitt Police officers made $30 per hour to guard the doors and operate the magnetometers in clearing defendants, witnesses, attorneys and visitors.

Even though the County spend a little more than $1 million to refurbish and furnish a new courtroom in the Annex building, the traffic had to come into the building at the east door of the main courthouse, ascend to the third floor, and cross a catwalk to the other building, then descend in an elevator to the ground floor for jury selection and pre-trial hearing dates held by visiting judges.

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