The Texas Attorney General’s Office has placed a financial hold on an account containing $42,000 in state funds dedicated to assisting victims of violent crimes in the city of Palmview.
The suspension of the Palmview crime victim liaison program, according to interim City Manager Leo Olivares, is a consequence of the city being suspended from the federal asset forfeiture program.
“The Office of the Attorney General has become aware of potential financial management issues of Office of the Attorney General (OAG) grant funds,” the email stated. “This email serves as notification that your grant has been placed on financial hold while these issues are investigated.”
Though the email didn’t list the program by name, a representative from the OAG confirmed on Tuesday the program being affected was the Palmview crime victim liaison program-which received $42,000 in state funds last fall.
“We’d obviously like to get reinstated as soon as possible. It’s a good program and the community benefits from it,” Olivares said.
The financial suspension came over a week after the city’s asset forfeiture program was suspended by the U.S. Department of Justice. As previously reported, financial records from the city appeared to show Palmview spent federal asset forfeiture money-money seized by the Justice Department that is linked to criminal activity-on food, gift cards and an employee Christmas party.
Other problems the city found in an audit of the federal asset forfeiture program included the mixing of state funds with federal money, which Olivares said happened in the crime victim liaison program. According to Olivares, the director of the crime victim liaison program was accidentally being paid with money from the forfeiture program instead of state grant funds from the OAG’s office.
Those funds, Olivares explained, were supposed to be deposited in the city’s general fund but were instead deposited into the federal asset forfeiture program.
“What’s happened here, as far as we’re able to tell, the monies have been improperly administered but they have not been misappropriated into private hands,” Olivares said. “It’s just been deposited into one account where it shouldn’t have been instead of another account.”
The crime victim liaison program was started by the city last fall under the city’s police department, Olivares said, adding that the program’s director was hired earlier this year.
Olivares said the city will reach out to the OAG to find more information on the suspension. The city is also meeting with the Department of Justice to see if the city’s two other federal programs – the Stone Garden and Border Star programs – will also be suspended as those funds were deposited into the federal asset forfeiture account.
“We’re self-reporting to the DOJ and even though the crime victim liaison program is suspended, we’d like our program director to continue to get paid,” Olivares said. “It’s not the employee’s fault this happened so I don’t what them to suffer for it.”