FROM THE LONGVIEW NEWS-JOURNAL:
Longview, TX — Documents show Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd has been paying employees bonuses with money from his hot-check fund — a violation of the Texas Constitution.
The Texas attorney general’s press office confirmed it received a letter May 6 from another county official requesting investigative assistance. It said the “matter is under review.”
Byrd paid employee Christmas bonuses in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and wrote subsequent checks to reimburse the county for taxes on the bonuses, according to Upshur County documents.
According to Article 3, Section 53 of the Texas Constitution, no county or municipal authority can give “any extra compensation, fee or allowance to a public officer, agent, servant or contractor, after service has been rendered, or a contract has been entered into, and performed in whole or in part.”
A public servant commits the offense of abuse of official capacity if he “violates a law related to the public servant’s office or employment, or misuses government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant’s custody or possession by virtue of the public servant’s office or employment,” according to Section 39.02 of the Texas Penal Code.
Byrd gave eight employees $100 bonuses at the end of 2007, but did not pay any payroll taxes on the amount, according to a February 2008 letter from former county auditor Gary Smith, who now is employed by the city of Gilmer. Smith said payroll for each employee should be increased $100 in February with taxes withheld, then the $100 should be deducted to ensure “they didn’t receive the bonus twice.” Byrd was going to reimburse the county for the county’s portion.
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