Last September, the Dallas County Sheriff's Office began investigating what appeared to be discrepancies in traffic tickets tickets written by its deputies. Specifically, it looked at whether they had falsified information on traffic tickets written during officers' normal shifts to make it appear that they were written while they were working overtime.
After an 11-month review, investigators determined that's exactly what was happening in seven of the 20 cases. They forwarded those along to District Attorney Craig Watkins' office, which filed criminal charges against three three former deputies. Prosecutors are still reviewing whether to do the same for a fourth, and declined to pursue the case against three others.
But Dallas County wasn't the only agency conducting an investigation. The Texas Department of Transportation, which awarded the grants that made the deputies' overtime pay possible, just completed an audit of those funds, and determined that a sizable chunk of the money had been misused.
The grant money was administered through TxDOT's STEP program, which aims to improve traffic safety by having more officers on duty to catch offenses like drunk driving, speeding, and not wearing a seat belt. Between 2009 and 2011 Dallas County received $886,860 in STEP funds -- money the Sheriff's Department notes in a press release that it was extremely grateful to receive. TxDOT determined that roughly a quarter of that amount, $214,031, was improperly spent and will have to be repaid.
TxDOT has not yet publicly released the audit, but Dallas County Commissioners will vote Tuesday on whether to repay TxDOT. The Sheriff's Department says it has implemented procedures to improve oversight over STEP grants, including a mandatory four-hour training class that teaches officers how the program works.
Sheriff's deputies Johnny Quarles, Jr., Derce Kirby, and Sherman McIntyre were each indicted in February on multiple counts of tampering with a government document with intent to defraud. All of their cases were ongoing.
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