Picking up the Tab for Potter County Dispute

Potter county taxpayers may have to foot the bill for a recent criminal case. 

An attorney's bill is all that is left of the case that accused Potter County Road and Bridge employees of misusing equipment.

It all started when the Potter County Sheriff's Department launched an investigation into wether Road and Bridge department employees had used county equipment for private use.

Employees and some Potter County Commissioners accused the sheriff's department of heavy-handed tactics in the investigation, and accused Sheriff Mike Shumate of using the investigation to retaliate against the commission for budget cuts in his department.

Today, Potter County Commissioners decided by a 2-to-0 vote, to use county funds to pay the 12-thousand dollar legal bill incurred by the commissioners and employees who sought outside council in the matter.

Commissioner Lacy Borger says now they hope they can put the whole incident behind them. 
"The county will pay for it, and it's behind us and we have a clean start now, and the cooperation between all departments is back intact, and we're anxious to start a new year."

Commissioners went into an executive session for about an hour to get legal advice before their vote.

The county attorney, Scott Brumley suggested Commissioner Joe Kirkwood abstain because of a conflict of interest, because he was also represented by the outside attorney's. " Texas law says if you stand to personally benefit and you have to vote on whether public money is supposed to be used you shouldn't be voting."

Kirkwood was one of two commissioners who abstained, Manny Perez and Lacy Borger were the only two who voted in favor of paying the bill. Borger says "A difficult decision has been made, without exception it's in the best interest of Potter County and the citizens of Potter County."

Now the bill sits on the desk of the county auditor, Kari Hood...but she says she can refuse to pay it. Which in effect could leave it as Commissioner Joe Kirkwood's responsibility - since he was represented by the outside attorney hired in the case. 

It could be tomorrow before Hood decides whether to use county money to pay the bill.

NewsChannel 10 will continue to follow this story and give you all the latest details.

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