I have never had a case where a prosecutor has stood in front of a large group and admitted to driving while intoxicated — or any other crime for that matter.
But that seems to be exactly what the elected District Attorney in Collin County recently did. No, he did not admit driving while intoxicated, but instead stood in front of the county commissioners and asked for assistance on properly "coding" his Hi-Five Paid Time Off program. A program that on its face seems to be doing the same thing he accuses Six Collin County District Clerks of doing. Taking time off from work with the permission of their supervisors, but putting in with the county that they were actually present so they can be paid.
From the Commissioners Agenda below:
The request started off innocently enough. DA John Roach was asking for was a way to change the computer coding of employees time off. Apparently he had already asked HR to do this, but they refused to make the change.
DA Roach explained the program: A supervisor or manager recommends an employee for a certificate that allows some time off. The recommendation is reviewed by manager, division chief and ultimately by me personally (John Roach). The employee "might get an hour off or two hours off "and they must take it within a certain amount of time, usually 30 days. They must get their managers approval, then fill out a scheduling request. That lets us (The DA) know when they’ll take the time off.
Cynthia Jacobson (HR’s appointed official) told the Court Commissioners that they only make the change with these programs are approved by the Court. And this program has not been approved by the court.
The meeting then took on a much different tone. The commissioners seemed very disturbed by the elected DA coming up with his own time off compensation program.
One Commissioner asked, "The application should reflect our policies. Do we have policy where people get time off for rewards?" The question seemed rhetorical, because from the way the meeting went, it was clear that no such program exists within the county. There are policies in place that dictate time off, and this isn’t one of them.
The commissioners not only refused to change the computer coding, but refused to accept that it was OK for the elected DA to start his own paid time off program.
In response to the District Attorney’s statement, "if I have someone doing a really good job, I should have the discretion to reward them for it," the commissioner responded with a resounding, "I disagree."
So if the elected District Attorney feels it is OK to come up with his own paid time off program, why is it not OK for the clerks office to do the same? He charged six clerks with felonies for doing just that.
Here is the major problem I see with the State’s case against the clerks. Even if they did exactly what the District Attorney alleges (and they might very well have), do those actions constitute a crime? The clerks supposedly padded their time in the office when they were not actually in the office.
According to the District Attorney paying someone for time off when they are not in the office is legal. But apparently only if they are his employees, not employees of the District Clerk’s office. Perhaps it is because the clerks didn’t first come up with a name as cool as the "High Five" program.
If you would like to view the video, click on the video picture above. You can click on the agenda item below the video to jump to that portion of the commissioner’s meeting.
Also, for those not normally dealing with Collin Courts, this is the District Clerks office that was accused of wrongdoing — a different office than the County Clerks office.
Hunter Biederman is a DWI / Criminal Defense Attorney in Collin County. He publishes his blog (www.friscodwilawyer.com) which focuses on the Collin County and Texas legal system. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (888) DWI-FRISCO.