Ken Paxton

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Former Sheriff, Sitting Commissioner Plead Guilty to Official Corruption

BASTROP Former Bastrop County Sheriff Richard Hernandez and sitting Precinct 1 County Commissioner David A. Goertz today pleaded guilty to official corruption charges brought against them in indictments handed down last May and July. Both were charged with misusing taxpayer resources, including county equipment, vehicles, materials, inmate labor, facilities and credit accounts, for their personal benefit. Goertz resigned as a condition of his guilty plea.

Hernandez, 52, served as sheriff from January 1997 until he resigned last May following the first indictments. Under the plea agreement, he will spend 90 days in jail, serve 10 years probation and forfeit his peace officer’s license. Hernandez pleaded guilty to six felony counts, including theft by a public servant, abuse of official capacity and misapplication of fiduciary property. He must pay the county $16,000 for diverting county money for profit and personal use.

Goertz, 52, took office in January 2005. He pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor charge, abuse of official capacity. His six-month jail sentence is probated for one year. He must pay $1,499 in restitution to Bastrop County along with a $1,500 fine. He must also perform 120 hours of community service.

Assistant Attorneys General David Glickler and Harry White prosecuted both cases at the request of Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz, who is a distant relative of defendant David Goertz.

The most serious charges leveled against Hernandez stemmed from his scheme with a local car dealer to sell his personal vehicle to eliminate the debt on the vehicle. At the same time, he sold a county sheriff’s department vehicle to the dealer for $13,000, a price well below its current market value of about $30,000. Then Hernandez, acting as county sheriff, immediately used county funds to purchase his personal vehicle back from the dealer for use as a county vehicle, clearing his debt in the process. Next, he bought back the more expensive county vehicle from the dealer for the original $13,000 selling price. However, he purchased this vehicle as an individual, not as Bastrop County Sheriff. Hernandez, representing himself as a private citizen, later sold this vehicle to a dealer in another county for $28,500, pocketing the difference.

Hernandez also committed theft by using county inmate labor and materials to build large barbecue pits, one of which he sold at 100 percent profit to a local citizen for $2,000. According to the indictment, Hernandez used county materials such as motor fuel, propane, tools, tires and other items for his personal benefit throughout his time in office.

Both Hernandez and David Goertz routinely used inmate labor to improve their residences, often as on-the-clock county employees oversaw the prisoners. Goertz used inmates on electrical wiring projects in his home, as well as other jobs that benefited him.