With a county attorney in his district under investigation for corruption and bribery, one lawmaker is seeking to repeal the program he used to raise money.
The Brown County Attorney, Shane Britton, is currently being investigated by the FBI, the Texas Rangers, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas for allegedly running a cash-for-clemency program that allows people charged with criminal offenses to bribe their way out of trouble.
The program was so egregious that even local law enforcement officials were incredulous.
“It was so bizarre, I thought there had to have been more to the story,” said Brown County Chief Deputy Bobby Duvall to a local news station. “They’d get arrested on drug charges, DWI’s, assaults, et cetera, and their case would be completely wiped off the books, if they’d had given a donation.”
The program was exposed thanks to the efforts of a local government watchdog who revealed that over the past decade Britton’s office had received more than $250,000 in “donations” to the program.
According to county records, Britton used the money to pay for travel to “conferences” at Schlitterbahn, cellphones for himself and his staff, and advertisements in the Brownwood High School cheer calendar.
They didn’t stop there, by covering some of the county office’s costs with donations, Britton was even able to convince county leaders to raise his salary, and that of his staff.
So how did this program begin?
In almost all of Texas’ 254 counties, law enforcement officials are legally barred from accepting gifts under state law, but in 2007 then-State Rep. Jim Keffer, who represented the area, passed legislation to exempt the Brownwood County Attorney’s office from the ban.
Now his successor, State Rep. Mike Lang (R–Granbury), is stepping in to fix the problem.
Supported by conservatives, local officials in his district, and the Justice of the Peace and Constables Association, Lang has authored legislation would re-instate the ban on county attorney offices accepting donations in six counties that have secured exemptions, including Brown County.
Though Lang says he is not aware of any corruption or bribery cases in any county other than Brown, he wants to remove any possibility for local officials to engage in bad behavior.
“When good men and women are put in a position where wrong can be done, temptation can sometimes overcome even the best intentions,” said Lang. “The law should be followed and at no time should donations be used to determine a case’s outcome. Contributions and criminal action should not mix at any time.”