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County votes to reduce size of Integrity Unit

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Some Travis County employees may be looking for new jobs after Commissioners voted to reduce the size of the Public Integrity Unit.

Commissioners are also looking for funding to keep the unit intact after August 30th, when state funding runs out.

Tuesday's unanimous vote means the Travis County Commissioners Court recognizes two things.

One, Governor Rick Perry's line item veto got rid of the Public Integrity Unit's $7.5 million two year funding. Two, the unit's staffing will be reduced.

Right now, there are 31 employees.

Gregg Cox is a Travis County Assistant District Attorney and has been the Director of the Public Integrity Unit since 1991.

He said there are 10 lawyers, seven investigators, five forensic accountants, and the rest are support staff.

"It leaves people in a state of limbo," Cox said. "They don't know if they should be looking for jobs, they like the jobs they have. They're afraid if they find new jobs and then the funding comes through, they've taken a wrong step so it kind of leaves people in the state of limbo."

He also said out of the 425 pending cases, 293 happened in Travis County. That means even without funding, the 293 cases have to be prosecuted by the Travis County District Attorney's Office. The unit is part of the DA office.

Cox said most of those cases are tax and insurance fraud. A small number of those deal with public corruption cases.

Commissioner Margaret Gomez says she has received calls from constituents who are against county tax money going toward the unit. However, she says it has to be done.

Commissioner Bruce Todd said otherwise, it sends the wrong message.

While all the commissioners agree the unit is important and that funds must be found to support it, only one recommends Travis County District Attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg's, resignation, Commissioner Gerald Daughtery.

"If she were to decide that, I think there are a lot of folks that would really be willing to go over and to talk to the governor to say let's find a way to reinstate it," said Daughtery. "My read of what's coming from the governor's office is as long as that's not an option then I think he has made the statement loud and clear, he is not going to allow it to be in the budget."

Lehmberg has repeatedly said she will not resign.

The unit's 31 employees were notified Friday that they would receive notices Tuesday.

The vote also means the county could pay compensation to the employees for a month's time from August 31st to Sept 30th.

State Representative, Sylvester Turner, filed a resolution Monday to restore the state funding to the Public Integrity Unit. The bill would override the Governor's veto.

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