County leaders to pursue civil suit in tax office theft case

by Jo Anne Embleton

RUSK – By unanimous vote during a Jan. 10, 2023, Cherokee County Commissioners Court meeting, local county leaders voted to enlist the services of a Tyler law firm to pursue a civil suit against a former county employee in the tax office.

The vote came following an executive session that lasted slightly less than half an hour, when the court resumed into open meeting, with all members present for the vote, according to officials.

In a release to the Cherokeean Herald, Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis said that the court approved enlisting the services of Flowers Davis PLLC of Tyler “to work pro bono in the pursuit of a civil case for theft, against a former employee of the Cherokee County Tax Office and the County accepting the donation of their time and service.”

The case harks back to 2021, when late that year, an internal audit of the Cherokee County Tax Assessor’s office raised red flags when the documents held by the county didn’t match what was reported to the State Comptroller.

A complete audit conducted by the outside accounting firm of Patillo, Brown & Hill LLP was able to confirm a discrepancy, and also was able to pinpoint an amount of $431,375.91 that was missing, allegedly taken between 2015 and 2021 by long-time county employee.

Findings were subsequently turned over to the Cherokee County District Attorney’s office on Jan. 12, 2022, which then contacted the DPS and Texas Rangers on Jan. 18, 2022, to investigate. Several months later, on June 17, the county auditor’s office cut a check to procure an outside forensic auditor – Burkett and Courington LLC of Tyler – at the request of the DA’s office.

No other action has been taken by officials since last summer.