District attorney moves to dismiss case against county treasurer; defense attorneys still not happy.
District Attorney Alan Nash has filed a motion to dismiss the case against Erath County Treasurer Kimberly Barrier, but stopped short of exonerating her, a fact that has riled up Barrier’s attorneys Jim Elliott and Ryan Taylor.
The saga began last summer when Erath County Judge Alfonso Campos filed a petition to have Barrier removed from office for incompetency, claiming she was not properly reconciling bank accounts, posting money to the county ledgers in a timely fashion or paying benefits for county employees on time.
A three-day evidentiary hearing presided over by Judge Stephen Ellis concluded that Barrier would be given another chance to correct the problems. He ordered Barrier to stay current with her elected duties “timely” and “properly” or face immediate removal from office.
Then, last week, Nash filed a request to dismiss the case entirely.
In his 14-page request for dismissal, Nash states that Barrier has worked with an outside accountant to correct the issues and is keeping up with monthly bank reconciliations.
“The treasurer has worked diligently to catch up and maintain monthly reconciliations,” Nash wrote. “(Barrier) is a capable person versed in her field and knowledgeable concerning the functions and duties of her office.
“The independent accountant retained by the Commissioners Court has reported that the treasurer is competent in the recording and reporting of the financial transactions of the county.”
But he stopped short of exonerating Barrier completely, adding that he believes Campos was trying to protect the county’s financial stability when he sought to have her removed from office.
“While the petition has been characterized in pleadings and courtroom advocacy as some sort of politically-motivated ‘witch hunt,’ such advocacy seems flippant in the face of a rather simple reality: the complaints and factual statements in Relator Campos’ petition were true.
“The bank reconciliations for Erath County were from four to six months behind on three separate occasions, with the failures to perform the reconciliations spanning three years, two different county auditors, and two different financial software systems.”
Nash then said it was up to the voters, not the state, to decide if Barrier should be removed from office.
And that’s not sitting well with her attorneys.
ELLIOTT AND TAYLOR RESPOND
Barrier’s attorneys filed a counter claim several weeks ago asking the court to reimburse her for attorney and court costs, but what’s not clear is who exactly is responsible – Alfonso Campos or the state of Texas?
I spoke with Elliott and Taylor at length following Nash’s request for dismissal and both said they were surprised it was 14 pages long.
“We have never seen anything like it,” Taylor said. “A notice of nonsuit is usually no more than two or three sentences.
“It appears that the state used the opportunity to hide the fact that it cannot meet its burden of proof against Kimberly Barrier.”
The attorneys also allege that early drafts of the motion were passed around to county officials for input.
“The state has been very clear throughout this case that it does not represent Alfonso Campos, the commissioners or the county auditor,” Taylor said. “If that’s true, then why did the state circulate its brief to certain elected officials?”
They also question why it’s not being made public that an outside accountant hired by the county reportedly confirmed that Barrier’s bank reconciliations and balances were accurate.
More importantly, both attorneys say they believe that political posturing is behind the lengthy motion aimed at hurting Barrier’s chance in the upcoming primary election while providing political cover for other county officials.
“If politics did not play a role in this, then the state would have simply filed a two-sentence nonsuit like any other attorney would do in any other case, or at the very least, admit it could not meet its burden of proof and publicly acknowledge the fact that Kimberly Barrier is not incompetent,” Taylor said.
In other words, this still isn’t over.