Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee Tuesday denied Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s announcement that county officials are attempting to resolve the defunding claims Hegar made earlier this month.
“Comptroller Hegar’s statement is false. The county’s position on his determination that the county defunded the Precinct 5 Constable’s Office has not changed. Comptroller Hegar misapplied the law, bungled the math, and is acting outside of legal authority. We are continuing to evaluate legal options,” said Menefee in a press release from his office.
On Thursday February 16, Harris County officials voted to file a lawsuit against Hegar, after he sent a letter claiming that the county had defunded law enforcement by cutting funds to the Precinct 5 Constable’s Office.
Though Hegar included mathematical calculations to back his claim that the county had a funding shortfall of $2.3 million between their 2022 and 2023 fiscal years, County Judge Lina Hidalgo said that his calculations were incorrect.
Hidalgo said when annualizing the budgets, Hegar shortened the county’s pay period and fiscal year in 2022, which indicated an incorrect annualized budget of $48.9 million.
According to Hidalgo, Hegar should have factored in the county’s 26 pay periods during the 12 months of Harris County’s fiscal year, which would have resulted in the correct annualized budget of $46.7 million – or a $2 million dollar increase between the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years.
The comptroller is now claiming Hidalgo and other county officials have stopped attempting their litigation efforts and instead are working to address the numbers and fully fund local law enforcement, according to a press release from Hegar’s Office.
Hegar said he supports and will assist the county in their efforts to find a resolution but is not rescinding his initial complaint. However, the comptroller has asked his staff to hold his determination to give county officials the opportunity to address the situation.
Menefee said that he suspects that Hegar’s statements come in response to a letter from Governor Greg Abbott’s office today – which confirms there were no pending defunding complaints.
Harris County officials had contacted both the governor’s office and the comptroller’s office last week, notifying them that they had not received a letter about the defunding complaints. This letter is required by law to notify county of any pending defunding complaints and provide the opportunity to correct before referring the complaints to the comptroller’s office.
According to Menefee, initially the governor’s office refused to confirm in writing whether there were additional pending complaints but did so in the letter sent to them today.
Menefee said that if the governor or comptroller provided the county with the legally required notice about the Precinct 5 Constable’s Office, they would have taken the opportunity to correct their mathematical and legal errors.
Menefee said that despite Hegar’s claims, the county is still pursuing legal options.