Starr County auditor questions use of forfeiture funds

A request by the Starr County attorney’s office to pay for catering with forfeiture funds has led the county auditor to seek an outside opinion.

Starr County Auditor Boyd Carter filed a request for an opinion from the state attorney general’s office on Friday on the use of crime prevention forfeiture funds.

The inquiry came after a request from County Attorney Victor Canales to pay for the catering of the office’s Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations with the funds.

“It didn’t look right to me,” Carter said. “I may be mistaken, it may be perfectly normal; I don’t know but I just didn’t feel comfortable with it so I asked for an opinion.”

The county attorney said he had been unaware there was even a question as to whether that was allowed. Upon learning of Carter’s concerns, Canales said he reached out to the Texas District & County Attorneys Association which helped him research the matter.

Together they determined that the catering expense could not be covered through the Crime Prevention fund so Canales said he has asked the auditor to cancel the purchase order. He said he will be covering the expense, which amounts to about $585, out of his own pocket.

Typically, forfeiture funds pay for operational expenses, he said, such as computers, software operation fees and the salary of one of their investigators.

Canales said he submitted the purchase order after seeing a county luncheon similarly expensed without question from the previous auditor.

“I certainly didn’t want there to be any issues with it,” he said. “The question never arose as to the ability to pay for it through the county; I didn’t think there was a question until today.”

This story has been updated to reflect that Boyd Carter is the Starr County auditor.