As taxing entities debate whether to cut, maintain or raise property tax rates…
By Cynthia Thomas
Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has one of the highest effective real estate tax rates in the United States, impacting the affordability of our homes and apartments. Government waste, at any level, adds to our household financial burden and makes higher property taxes more likely.
Currently, local government officials are debating whether to cut, maintain or raise our property tax rates for the 2019 fiscal year to cover program expenditures. In the midst of these deliberations, I would like to call to the attention of both our elected officials and taxpayers a situation occurring that appears to involve double-dipping into government coffers.
Shortly after taking office as Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 1, former Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis hired Cody Ray Wheeler (right,) to fill a full-time position with the title of “Community Engagement Coordinator”. But the position has no job description.
Mr. Wheeler’s employment commenced June 12, 2017.
Mr. Wheeler is also a member of the Pasadena City Council, representing District E. From June 12, 2017 through May 2018, the Pasadena City Council met 23 times.
A review of the dates, and times —compared below with the time-sheets Councilman Wheeler submitted for his work in the County Commissioner’s Office — indicates Wheeler charged Harris County taxpayers for time spent attending over 30% of the Pasadena City Council Meetings.
If Mr. Wheeler’s was willing to have Harris County taxpayers pay for attending city council meetings that are easy to verify, it is very possible taxpayers paid for other extracurricular activities of Mr. Wheeler.
Page 28 of the Harris County Personnel Policies & Procedures states:
“Harris County is accountable to the taxpayers for spending public funds; therefore, our pay system is based on principles of public accountability that prohibit the government paying employees unless they actually perform work.”
Further, page 8 of this same handbook specifies that fraudulent behavior is strictly prohibited, including intentional deception for the purpose of personal gain.
Holding government officials accountable for carefully spending our tax dollars is not easy, especially when the budgets are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. However, each elected officeholder can and must exercise careful oversight of the expenses incurred in their offices, ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
This is an instance of clear double-dipping, and is likely not the only case of wasteful or possibly fraudulent spending of Harris County taxpayer funds.
Cynthia Thomas is president of TriDimension Strategies, LLC. With over 20 years of political experience in Federal, State & Local Government Issues, she holds an M.A. in Public Affairs and a B.S. Summa Cum Laude in Political Analysis from the University of Minnesota.
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Source: Texas Politics