Craig Watkins' Use of Forfeiture Funds Is Being Audited by the Feds
Maybe Mike Cantrell was right. As first reported by The Dallas Morning News late last night, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office is being investigated for the potential improper use of money seized during criminal investigations.
Cantrell, the lone Republican on the Dallas County Commissioner's Court, fought a solo battle over the summer to have outside council appointed to take a deeper look into Watkins' management of the forfeiture fund, specifically his using it to settle a February 2013 car wreck for which he was at fault.
According to the News, Watkins' office has not had access to the money since August, when it was deemed as being "non-compliant" by the feds. Now officials are in Dallas in person to take a look at records and equipment bought with forfeiture money.
When I talked to Watkins' office about the wreck in August, his spokeswoman Debbie Denmon was careful to point out that using forfeiture money for vehicles and equipment -- as well as court costs -- was legal under federal law.
Cantrell didn't buy it and called for the commissioner's court to take action. It didn't -- Cantrell's motion wasn't seconded, so their wasn't even a vote taken. If any improprieties are found by the Justice Department penalties could range from the inability of the office to use forfeiture funds to criminal prosecutions for those involved in the misuse of the funds.
Watkins' office has called the audit routine and told the News it resulted from a minor mix-up. The audit is expected to conclude in February or March. At that point, the results will be just as much Susan Hawk's problem as Watkins'.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.