Galveston County Commissioners Court judge calls for resignation of two county employees after county is scammed out of $500,000

Galveston County Commissioners Court Judge Mark Henry during a Dec. 17 meeting called for the resignation of the county’s purchasing agent and auditor, blaming them for a fraudulent payment of over $500,000 the county recently made.

Henry compared the jobs of Purchasing Agent Rufus Crowder and Auditor Randall Rice to homeowners who must pay their taxes to avoid suffering severe consequences, even if they are injured, ill or lose their jobs.

“I find it unacceptable that homeowners are held to a different standard than county employees. As a result of that, I’m calling for the resignation of the purchasing agent and the county auditor for their involvement and their refusal to take any responsibility for what has happened here,” Henry said.

Henry acknowledged neither Crowder nor Rice report directly to Commissioners Court, so Henry will appeal to the boards to which they do report and encourage the boards to replace both men with responsible leaders, Henry said.

Crowder made data changes without any verification to send money to an out-of-state bank and has taken no responsibility for the fraud. Rice is responsible for presenting verified and valid lawful claims to the court to vote on, Henry said.

“That clearly did not happen here,” he said.

The county should consider hiring an auditor to audit the auditor if Rice cannot do his job, Henry said.

Last week Rice sent an email asking the county to reduce the surety bond for his office from $100,000 to the statutory minimum of $5,000. Surety bonds are contracts that help protect the county from loss and fraud, said Commissioner Ken Clark.

“[Rice] doesn’t want taxpayers to have any recourse if he makes such a mistake in the future,” Henry said. “I find that extremely unacceptable and a slight to the taxpayers in this county who are forced to pay their taxes every year.”

In a related matter, the Commissioners Court unanimously voted to up the surety bonds for the county treasurer’s office up to the maximum of $500,000. Commissioners are considering doing the same for the purchasing agent’s and auditor’s offices, Clark said.

In June a company posing as a road contract company scammed Galveston County out of $525,000. The scammer sent an email saying their bank account number had changed. The county sent money to the new account number before realizing it was fake, according to Community Impact Newspaper’s media partner, ABC13.
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.

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