13 Undercover

Audit released on Constable Trevino's office

Saturday, August 11, 2012

There's a shocking audit of the way they did business at Victor Trevino's constables office. Time sheets of dozens of deputies may not have been worth the paper they were written on. The audit was triggered by a 13 Undercover investigation and now we have the latest update.

The audit didn't begin until months after our first stories. They say better late than never, and Friday's audit may be a classic example.

The popular eastside constable easily won his primary in May despite an ongoing criminal probe, despite revelations he cashed large checks from the charity he founded, despite evidence deputies were pressured by commanders to raise campaign cash.

"You're telling deputies they will turn in money," we asked Trevino.

"And I think again I've become lax," he replied during our interview with him in September of 2011.

Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, but voters didn't know what the Harris County auditor had already proven. Time sheets of many of the deputies on the east side couldn't be trusted.

"The fact that the time cards weren't worth the paper they were printed on, this goes beyond gross negligence," Texas Watchdog Editor Trent Siebert said.

It doesn't get much worse than Friday night's audit report.

"Due to the nature and magnitude of the errors in preparing and approving the time sheets... we were unable to determine whether the hours reported on the employee time sheets ... reflected the actual hours worked."

That's your money.

"This is one of the most important government documents there. It's got to be 100 percent correct," Siebert said.

Auditors looked at time sheets between September and December 2011 and found 63 percent were not properly done. One deputy's time sheets reflected the same hours worked for both the county and another employer at the very same time.

Siebert runs a website watching local government.

"What company anywhere in America could get away with that and stay in business? You couldn't," he said.

But for months, the auditor hadn't bothered to even begin looking, and the county attorney hadn't even asked for help, despite having evidence of possible misconduct.

"Have you asked the auditor's office to conduct a review of time sheet practices at any constable's offices?" we asked Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan.

"Have we?" Ryan then asks one of his staff members.

The answer from his staff is no.

"People who live in Precinct 6 ought to be scared," Siebert said.

Here's the good news. Thanks to our investigation, the auditor reports Precinct 6 is keeping better time sheet records. But that begs the question, why didn't the auditor know all this stuff was going on before we had to tell them?

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