EDITORIAL: Use public funds properly in Starr County

Asking to use money from a county forfeiture fund to cover holiday catering costs for office parties is not a wise move. It’s even less advised when the person doing the asking is the county attorney.

We do acknowledge, however, that the promised payment of $585 from Starr County Attorney Victor Canales’ personal funds —to cover what he originally thought would be paid from county forfeiture funds for his 2017 office Thanksgiving and Christmas parties — is a step in the right direction. But Canales should never have thought the public funds could be used this way in the first place.

We commend Starr County Auditor Boyd Carter, who on April 23 filed a request for an opinion from the state attorney general’s office seeking clarity on proper use of crime prevention forfeiture funds. In the request, Boyd wrote that Canales was: “requesting payment from the ‘Crime Prevention Forfeiture Fund’ to a caterer to pay for food served at his office staff Thanksgiving party and his office staff Christmas party. Is this an allowable use of the money?”

Those holding the purse strings on our precious public funds must always remember that the perception of impropriety is almost as powerful as impropriety, itself. Surely anyone giving this careful consideration would know better. Therefore we are a bit miffed when Canales told The Monitor last week: “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.” And then Canales offered to pay from his own pocket.

We remind him that a good public official always asks the questions.

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