Responding to a request by the Texas Department of Public Safety to renew an investigation into the department’s border security contracts, the head of the state’s anti-corruption unit said Monday that it was not equipped to continue the investigation.
Last week, DPS Director Steve McCraw wrote a letter to Gregg Cox, the assistant Travis County prosecutor who heads the state’s public integrity unit, asking Cox to resume a halted investigation into $20 million no-bid border security contracts. McCraw said his department “has been much maligned by inaccurate reporting” and wanted “a resolution to this matter once and for all.”
Responding in a letter to McCraw, Cox said the unit lacked the resources to continue its investigation, citing budget cuts in 2013 that forced the unit to cut its staff in half.
“Many difficult decisions had to be made regarding pending cases, and a number of important matters were closed due to the shortage of staff and resources,” Cox wrote.
The Houston Chronicle reported in January that the public integrity unit had dropped its investigation of the DPS contracts with Abrams Learning and Information Systems, a Virginia-based defense contractor.
The Chronicle reported that the investigation was scrapped as a result of former Gov. Rick Perry's 2013 veto of $7.5 million in state funds for the unit after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following her drunken driving arrest. Perry was later indicted over the veto threat and is now challenging those charges in court.
Cox’s response comes on the same day the Texas House is debating legislation to move the public integrity unity to the Texas Rangers — the investigative division of DPS.
“It is very timely that you should choose now to write me a letter pointing out that there is no other agency in state government that is equipped to investigate allegations concerning your department,” Cox wrote to McCraw. “Thank you for highlighting this very important issue in such a public way.”