Investigating Into Bonuses Paid Out to Duval County Appraisal District

The Duval County Sheriff's Office, along with the District Attorney and Texas Rangers, are investigating nearly $300,000 in bonuses being paid to employees of the county's appraisal district.

Investigators are looking to see if the taxpayer money was misappropriated, and they say they don't know just how far back it goes.

"Right now, we're looking at 2013, which is the audit that was performed by their external auditor," Duval County Sheriff Romeo Ramirez said. "However, we are going to go back into 2012, 2011, and trying to find out whether or not this had already been occurring."

Ramirez said he knows that approximately $300,000 has been paid out, either by incentive or bonuses, to at least three appraisal district employees. So now, investigators are questioning appraisal district employees, both present and former, as well as board members, to see if the bonuses were brought before the board for approval or whether there was some type of fraud occurring within the organization.

"I would say that the focus is pretty much on everybody or anybody who could be employed or formerly employed by the appraisal district," Ramirez said. "that's not to say that we suspect them of any wrongdoing. Again, this all has to do with whether or not a presentation of the incentives or the bonuses were made to the board and whether or not the board members actually approved those incentives to be paid out."

The district's chief appraiser, Rene Garza, resigned a couple of weeks ago. Shortly thereafter, a board member came forward and brought paperwork to the sheriff's office that showed what he believes is misappropriation of public funds. A recent audit is what revealed the questionable bonuses.

Theft of public funds by an administrator or an administrative executive officer is one of the charges investigators are looking at, but so far, no arrests have been made as the investigation is not yet over.


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