Public Integrity Unit forced to scale back after veto

AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than a year after the veto that now sits at the very center of Governor Rick Perry’s indictment, the Public Integrity Unit still exists but is significantly smaller. Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe said Tuesday the unit has approximately half the full-time employees it had prior to Perry’s line-item veto in June 2014.

The veto eliminated $3.7 million annually in state funding to the unit which is based inside the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. Government corruption cases across the state were prosecuted by the unit, but no longer.

“We only kept cases really close to litigation, but cases we just received, we sent back,” said Biscoe. The PIU still prosecutes and receives cases of corruption in Travis County, but cases from other parts of the state are now prosecuted in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. Travis County Commissioners contributed approximately $1.8 million to help prosecute the county’s caseload with 15 full-time employees. The county is projected to pay a slightly higher amount in 2015.

“We cut the full-time employees in half, it is half the size it used to be,” said Biscoe about the damage done to the unit by the veto. “I do think we ought to ask the state to restore the PIU funding but it is their call.”

Biscoe hopes negotiations with lawmakers during the next legislative session can lead to the funding being returned to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office for the PIU.

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