Hardin County District Attorney David Sheffield opened up talks of discrepancies in the DA’s office longevity fund that is state funded.
Sheffield presented his case to the Hardin County Commissioners at their regular meeting held on Monday at the Hardin County Courthouse.
“There have been discrepancies in this longevity fund regarding our assistant prosecutors,” said Sheffield. “This has caused a very confusing situation that has to be straightened out before we can go forward.”
Longevity funds are extra payments funded by the state which are then distributed by county entities.
Sheffield told commissioners that because of discrepancies in the money confusion regarding longevity funds, it was up to the county commissioners court to make a decision on the future of the handling of the funds.
A letter was submitted to the Hardin County District Courts and county courts by Sheffield requesting a solution to the problem.
County Commissioner Ken Pelt addressed Sheffield after a short recess to study the matter. In his address, Pelt told Sheffield that it was up to the State Comptrollers and Hardin County District Judges to oversee this matter before it is brought before county commissioners.
According to Sheffield, there was an over request of funds by Hardin County Auditor Lawrence Parthum in 2004.
Of the over request, Prosecutor Pat Hardy did not receive $2,880, which was later put away to another account.
In 2009, Sheffield then pointed out that Hardy applied for the Longevity Fund, which Parthum agreed to pay. But according to records that Sheffield retrieved, Hardy had not been paid any longevity funds in 2009-11 to Hardy.
Parthum told Sheffield that his reasoning was that Hardy had been overpaid in 2004 and was attempting to offset the amount.
Sheffield also found that an extra $4,000 was paid to Prosecutor Richard Dutton for back pay from 2009-11. He found that there were no requests from the Texas Comptroller for this amount.
Records indicate that on April 27, 2012, Parthum requests to state that $12,083.84 is owed in longevity pay for Pat Hardy but not paid for 2009 to current.
Parthum put a hold on the funds, which remain at the county treasurers office.
Sheffield told commissioners that Parthum submitted a letter to County Attorney Rebecca Walton stating that all prior longevity sums paid to prosecutors were “improper and there was no certification of eligibility.” Sheffield added that Parthum said there were $34,510 in overpayments.
Sheffield then indicated that on June 18, Parthum asked the county judge and county treasurer to authorize and disperse the payments. On July 5, Sheffield learned that Parthum had entered zero balances to the state comptroller for longevity pay for the third quarter. Hardy, Dutton and Dallas Barrington were all denied longevity pay because the deadline was June.
Commissioners felt that a decision be made by the District Judges since they are the direct bosses of Parthum.
Commissioner Pelt felt that the issue be handled directly by the State Comptroller. Sheffield added that the
County will still be held accountable regardless of an investigation and audit by the state comptroller, which would take time.
Hardy spoke to commissioners saying, “I will not have my name tarnished because of this.”
“We owe the citizens of Hardin County due respect and need to hear the people so we can tell them where we are spending their hard earned tax dollars,” said Commissioner Chris Kirkendall. “We need to take this upstairs and find out why the district judges are avoiding the issue.”
Commissioners discussed the issue for an hour before deciding to have district judges look into the matter.
There was some agreement to pay the $12,000 out to the assistant prosecutors, but some felt they would be overstepping boundaries.
County Treasurer Sharon Overstreet told commissioners she was waiting on approval to disperse the $12,000.
Sheffield suggested a third party auditor to figure out the confusion. Commissioners agreed, but Pelt added that district judges and the state need to get the issue resolved on their part.
A discussion will resume at the next scheduled commissioners court.