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Travis Co. DA discusses Public Integrity Unit funding

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Travis County District Attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, made a public appearance in Commissioners Court Tuesday.

She talked about how to fund the Public Integrity Unit, after the Governor took away $7.5 million.

The governor made good on his threat and line item vetoed funding for the Public Integrity Unit all because Rosemary Lehmberg didn't step down. He and others want her resignation after she was arrested for DWI in April.

"It's important to me that we have bipartisan support in the legislature for the funding so I think the Governor, it feels partisan and it's misguided as far as I'm concerned," Lehmberg said.

It's the first time we have heard from the Travis County District Attorney since the day after her DWI arrest in April, where she told FOX 7 she wasn't stepping down. It's a stance she still stands by.

Lehmberg says even if she could step down, the $7.5 million dollars is not coming back.

"He has vetoed. If I resign now which I'm not going to do by the way and I'll address that in a later time, I don't think that will solve the problem and that's what I want to do is solve the problem," Lehmberg said.

The problem is finding $7.5 million or $3.5 million per year to continue the unit after August 30 which includes 34 staffers, 35 positions, and some 400 cases.


Lehmberg and others say this is an unfunded mandate.

"I think it's important for people to know in Travis County that someone is taking care of the fraud that has been committed against them and I think we need to make our citizens feel like someone is keeping an eye on that," Margaret Gomez, Precinct 4 Commissioner said.

Out of the 400 pending investigations, 280 are from Travis County, which means if the Public Integrity Unit doesn't prosecute them, no one else can and they will be dropped.


County Judge Sam Biscoe says coming up with $3.5 million to fund one year of the unit is doable. After all, the county's entire budget is in the $700 millions. His concern though lies with what happens after this year budget cycle.

"Once you pick up one of these expenses, you're sort of stuck with it indefinitely, I don't' want to say forever but indefinitely and that could be a long time," Judge Biscoe said.

Judge Biscoe hopes that lawmakers will restore funding in the next legislative session because there's really no hope for that in this special session.

Commissioners said they plan to talk to other counties about financially helping since part of the Public Integrity Unit investigates statewide white collar crimes.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg says the state has funded the Public Integrity Unit since 1982. It investigates tax fraud, insurance fraud, and public corruption cases. The unit has statewide jurisdiction over tax and insurance fraud but not public corruption.

Lawmakers created special statutes for tax fraud and insurance fraud but the Public Integrity Unit can only investigate public corruption cases if they happen in Travis County.

Without funding, the Public Integrity Unit must still investigate public corruption cases that happen in Travis County. Lehmberg says they will just have to prioritize.

Three Commissioners have to approve whatever measure comes before the court and Commissioner Davis has already said he will not be here.

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