The county judge and three of the four commissioners voted in lockstep not to hire a professional forensic auditor, despite previously voting to hire one.

The taxpayers of Victoria County deserve to know how millions of dollars of tax proceeds were spent. We deserve to know the answers to many questions. Who represented the county’s interests during the process? Who vetted the contractor especially since the Commissioners Court voted to exempt themselves from competitive bidding? Who approved, oversaw and inspected the work?

The questions raised a year ago are still outstanding.

When questions originally came forward, the judge said he would appoint a task force of experienced business professionals to review everything surrounding the Harvey damages and subsequent repairs. And then he didn’t.

He said he would appoint a task force after Kevin Janak and his team completed his internal investigation. And then he didn’t.

After almost a year of work, Commissioner Janak’s team produced a report that only covered work associated with the final invoice. As of today, there is no reported resolution to that final invoice.

One of the tortured reasons the judge and the three commissioners gave for axing the forensic audit was their unwillingness to “sign a blank check” to the audit firm they selected, despite the fact that the contract provided for cancellation by any party.

Let’s talk about blank checks for a minute. Neither Commissioner Janak nor the judge placed any restraints on the working group. They could and did take as long as they wanted, all the while refusing to provide any information to the public as Commissioner Janak “reinvented the wheel.”

The aggregate annual salaries of those involved in the work group is approximately $240,000.00. Pick a number. If they spent 10% of their time deciphering 90 days of Virtus’ work, that would be $24,000.00 if it was closer to 50% of their time that’s $120,000.00. That feels like a blank check to me.

Worse than the direct cost to the county of the working group, was the time lost when professionals could have been exploring additional insurance claims. As you know those claims are time sensitive.

The judge would have you believe that the issue surrounding Harvey claims has been the most scrutinized issue in memory, implying “There is nothing to see here.” There has been no comprehensive independent review of the actions, or lack thereof, of the Harvey incident. We were promised that, but our judge and three commissioners have so far reneged.

It’s impossible for me to take credit for an investigation performed by those that actually directed the actions that need to be investigated.

The judge would have you believe the criticism he has received comes from a small “clique” of vocal people. He actually said this on a local radio show. There is no clique.

There are a number of informed citizens who believe strongly that there is more to this story than the judge and three of the commissioners want to be told. I believe it is the worst of judgment for an elected official to attempt to marginalize the concerns of any group. It is important to remember there are many stories of improper government behavior that have come to light from the voice of a single whistleblower.

The judge and three of the commissioners believe that no one cares. They’ve said as much. I don’t know if this is just wishful thinking or if they are truly untethered from reality. It’s Friday morning, and almost 300 people have taken the time to sign a petition supporting the forensic audit. This petition was started by a citizen that I have not had the pleasure to meet but I congratulate her.

Because of firsthand knowledge of substandard work and work not performed but paid for, former Sheriff T. Michael O’Connor called for a forensic audit.

Commissioners’ Court voted to have a forensic audit. They distributed requests for proposal. They received proposals from numerous qualified firms. They selected a firm, but when it came time to hire the firm, the judge and three commissioners reversed what they told you they would do. This has been a pattern of behavior since the beginning.

They would have you believe that the financial effects of COVID-19 demand they not hire a professional. You should believe this, despite the fact the forensic audit may be the only way to uncover the possibility of additional funds due to the county from either the vendor or the insurance provider. They would have you believe that doing what they said they would do would be fiscally irresponsible despite the fact the county treasurer said the funds were available.

This stinks. They want this issue to go away. It won’t. Not today. Not two years from now.

I’ve always believed it is never too late to do the right thing. The court should reconsider and approve the forensic audit. The public has the right to know.

Dennis Patillo is a Victoria businessman. He and his wife, Louise, own The PumpHouse Riverside Restaurant and Bar.

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(4) comments

Allen T Coffey

It's time for the Texas Rangers and the FBI to take this matter in hand if the County Judge and the Commissioners won't.

Dale Zuck

Mr Patillo, as I recall you have been on the Victoria Airport Commission for ten years. In your oversight have you not been the policy recommending board overseeing the Airport? Have you not seen bills? Have you not been privy to every project authorized? Airport manager and airport contractor associated with the Regional Airport? Has not the Airport Commission had a say so in the Essential Air Services contract which the Airport has been a beneficiary to? In my humble opinion, anyone who has had a say so in the operation of a Airport is also the beneficiary of praise and criticism. For ten years, under your watchful supervision, the airport has essentially deteriorated. Long gone are literal dozens of buildings great and small. Buildings which were under the watchful eye of the Airport Commission have fallen into greater state of disrepair. Yes Mr Patillo under your care nothing has gotten taken care of. Perhaps the best thing to happen to the Victoria Regional Airport was Hurricane Harvey. At least your neglect was demolished and some buildings saved and repaired. (Oh, how is the taxpayer funded Riverside Park parking lot serving your interests? )

Glenn Wilson

Dennis, "Who approved, oversaw and inspected the work?" -- That would be Joyce Dean, thoroughly unqualified and of questionable ethics, as documented in Victoria Advocate articles. Given the mysterious manner in which the airport repair project was implemented, conducted and ultimately screwed up it's not surprising that the "honorable" Victoria County Commissioners Court backed out of an outside audit that would examine those very things.

James Garland

They didn't mind signing blank checks during hurricane recovery, when it was something they wanted. The officers club comes to mind. Surely they know this is not going to just go away.

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