Friday, September 6, 2013
County Judge Mary Horn sent a letter to Constable Precinct 4 Tim Burch on September 4 regarding his use of county vehicles to perform off duty jobs in other counties.
This letter is subject to open records laws and I made an open records request. The following is the letter in its entirety:
Dear Constable Burch:
Article III, 52(e) of the Texas Constitution prohibits a county from granting things of value for private use. Officers who perform off-duty work receive a private benefit. Thus, when a county patrol vehicle is used in the performance of off-duty work, it is put to a private use. Such private use is permissible so long as the predominant purpose of the work is to accomplish an authorized public purpose.
Reports have been received that you have been using your county patrol vehicle to perform off-duty work outside of Denton County. This letter is to inform you that I consider this to be a misuse of Denton County property.
The Attorney General has specifically held that county patrol vehicles may be used for off-duty work only if the predominant purpose is to conserve the peace within the county, the elected official retains control over the vehicles in a manner that ensures the peace will be conserved, and the county actually receives this public benefit. Tex. Atty. Gen. Op. No. GA-0480 (2006).
Off-duty work performed outside of Denton County does not conserve the peace within Denton County or serve any other legally authorized county purpose. Therefore, I consider your use of a county patrol vehicle for this purpose to be a misuse of county property for your own private benefit. I request that you discontinue this practice immediately, and inform your deputies that you lack the authority to grant them the use of their county vehicles while working off-duty in other counties.
In using county property for your sole private benefit, you place the taxpayers of Denton County at risk for personal loss. Please understand that any officer who engages in this practice could be held personally responsible.
This letter was written after a traffic accident Burch was involved in earlier this year that destroyed a county-owned patrol car. He was in Tarrant County working an off-duty job with TXDOT. So far the insurance company has not paid off on the car or the $9,000 worth of special police add-ons.
Burch told the commissioners court on Tuesday that an individual was donating a fully-police-equipped Tahoe to his department.
Burch has called this blog "Moments of Stupidity" and accused this writer of being a "creative journalist." This stuff is not my creativity at work, folks.
I will report further facts as I find them.