Starr County commissioner responds to allegations

RIO GRANDE CITY — Following reports of an investigation into his purchase of equipment, Starr County Commissioner Eloy Garza issued news release Monday seeking to clarify the matter.

The Precinct 3 commissioner is under scrutiny over the lease-purchase of equipment from Doggett Equipment Services for about $683,000. County Auditor Boyd Carter confirmed he requested the county special crimes unit to look into the transaction.

In the news release, Garza stated he relied on the projected budget laid out by County Judge Eloy Vera in purchasing the equipment and expected that Vera would ensure the proper procedures were followed.

“The county judge and I signed off on paperwork involving the financial arrangements of the equipment.” Garza stated. “After consulting with legal counsel, the item was ratified on the agenda.”

Vera, however, said that he did not sign any contract or purchase order for that equipment.

“My understanding is that those contracts were signed by him and by statute, the only one authorized to sign contracts is the county judge with the approval of the commissioners court and after that, POs are done,” Vera said. “I didn’t sign a PO and the auditor has never signed a PO, it is my understanding.”

The commissioners approved a purchase order in regard to the lease-purchase during a meeting Oct. 2. The action also ratified the issuance of a government obligation contract between the county and KS State Bank for the $683,000.

Garza said while Vera did not sign a purchase order for it, he said Vera did previously sign a resolution. However, it is unclear whether that is sufficient to legally authorize the purchase.

In his statement, Garza went on to tout the benefit of the equipment which were two loaders and as many motor graders.

“The equipment is improving infrastructure on public roads and public property,” he stated. “It was no longer cost effective to Starr County to continue to try to maintain old, unsafe machinery.”

When reached for comment on the initial report of the investigation, Garza said the matter was a political move in retaliation of the large budget cuts that he and two other commissioners approved.

“Lots of money was projected to come in to the county and this seemed like a good time to reinvest into the community,” he said of the lease-purchase in the release. “Sadly now we know that the budget was in bad shape, but this equipment has been budgeted and will be covered.”