Investigation - Tarrant County Auditor Report - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Investigation - Tarrant County Auditor Report

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Shoddy record keeping.  A lack of administrative controls.  No formal documentation.

Those were just some of the comments coming from the Tarrant County Commissioners Court on Tuesday.

Monday, Fox 4 reported on a Tarrant County road project and allegations the county wasn't following its own rules.  The county's investigation is now wrapped up and it found no wrongdoing on the part of the contractor but plenty of changes recommended for the county.

"This will not happen again," said Commissioner Roy Brooks of Precinct 1.

They were strong words and promises coming from the commissioner after the county auditor found problems with the way his precinct and the county is conducting business.

At issue is a stretch of road in Southeast Tarrant County. Last year, the county contracted with R.D. Howard Construction to put in these safety slope ends, which provide drainage.

The contract stated Howard would pay for them but the county picked up the $14,000 tab.

"The county agreed to provide those, as Mr. Maenius explained, for various reasons," said County Auditor Renee Tidwell, referring to the County Administrator, G.K. Maenius.

After reviewing all of the documentation, Tidwell explained the county did a trade with the contractor for additional work he agreed to provide.  She said there is a formal process for change orders but that process was circumvented due to time.  Another problem? There was no value for the additional work.

"The costing (sic) of what we received for what we traded off for what we provided was never adequately documented and if it was performed, there is no evidence of that," said Tidwell.

She said there was no evidence the county ever asked the contractor to supply any value to the work he was doing for the trade. She could not determine if the deal was a good one without having to incur additional expense to the county.

"I don't have any control over what goes on inside the county," said Randle Howard, President of R.D. Howard Construction. "All I know is that I did my job and I did not do anything wrong."

Tidwell found no evidence of wrongdoing on Howard's part but she says there needs to be tighter controls within the county, more checks and balances.  She recommends:

  • all road work and materials have a project number to ensure the county is complying with state bidding laws.
  • unusual road project be reviewed by the Tarrant County Administrator.
  • using an independent party to determine costs associated with any changes
  • if changes are made to a contract, there is a supplement to the original.

"The purpose of the change should be clearly documented, the scope should be described and any and all changes and costs associated with either the additions or deletions should be addressed," said Tidwell.

Commissioner Brooks told the court the buck stops here.

"We will have greater transparency. We will redouble our efforts to protect taxpayer's dollars," said Brooks.

Brooks added, he understood the deficiencies and promised change immediately. He said the job was complex.

"That, however, is no excuse for the shoddy record keeping and lack of administrative controls cited by both reports. Those things end now," said Brooks.

The issue is not the price tag of this project. We are talking about $14,000. It is about how the county conducts its business, whether taxpayers are getting their money's worth and the transparency we should all demand when it comes to government contracts. Commissioner Brooks told Fox 4 he is reviewing possible personnel changes in his precinct. The documents were turned over to law enforcement outside Tarrant County.

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