If you read The Dallas Morning News this morning, you maybe got the impression the state of Texas just gave Dallas County a big old pat on the back for the fine way it has been managing its Homeland Security money. But the actual state audit that just came out reads more like a big old butt-whuppin', or about as close to one as you're ever going to see in a state audit.
I wrote about this issue last March. Basically, County Judge Margaret Keliher told me the county has been squandering its Homeland bucks, using some of the money to bail out the hopelessly screwed-up piece of crap jail computer system instead of spending it on Homeland Security. She said county commissioners Mike Cantrell, Kenneth Mayfield and Maurine Dickey were more interested in spending money on their laughingstock fouled-up computers than in setting up an Emergency Operations Center--what the money was intended for.
The audit, carried out by the governor's division of emergency management, confirms Keliher's view. It says Dallas County has gone through the $8 million and still doesn't have a real emergency management center: "Although Dallas County officials stated that the county has the ability to operate a 24-hour Emergency Operation Center, the current County EOC does not have the capability to manage a large-scale response to a disaster." Apparently hunkering down in the men's room with your cell phone and a helmet doesn't count.
Meanwhile, the audit notes that Dallas County has put more than a million bucks into the wing-nut junk-box computer system that loses people in the jail like they were used bus tickets. "The disproportional funding to [the computer system] at the expense of the ability of the county...to respond to a severe incident should be re-evaluated," the audit says.
So in view of all of this, Commissioner Mike Cantrell is quoted in the News today as saying, "I think the county has been vindicated. We passed with flying colors."
I know why he said that. The real sweat for these guys was that the audit would say they had flat stolen the Homeland Security money. He was lying on his pillow at night seeing visions of himself in cuffs hopping over the tarmac to a waiting federal van. And yeah, he and the rest of the commissioners did beat that one. The audit did say there was nothing flat illegal about spending the money on the computers.
But c'mon. Passed with flying colors? That's the kind of paragraph that needs to be introduced with the clause, "In a laughable bold-faced lie, Commissioner Cantrell told the News Thursday..." --Jim Schutze
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.