Elfant briefs Travis Co. Commissioner's Court on aftermath of organized crime in tax office

Travis County Tax-Assessor Collector Bruce Elfant briefed County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and the Commissioners Tuesday morning on what's next for the disgraced tax office.

"First of all I want you and everyone in Travis County to know that I am angry and sickened to know that this discussion is even necessary.  Certain tax office employees have been charged with violating the public trust and my trust and that is just not acceptable," Elfant said.  
Elfant told commissioners he learned for the first time Friday afternoon about an ongoing investigation into some of his employees.

"In order to accelerate the process I immediately provided authorization and consent to DPS investigators for search and seizure of all evidence at these locations," Elfant said.

Seven arrests: charges like forgery, organized crime, bribery.

Four were tax office employees working at the satellite offices.
Freeman Martin with DPS told the press on Monday they conducted 4 search warrants in what they called "Operation Even Trade."

"Those search warrants resulted in the seizure of computer hard drives, cell phones and many, many documents," Martin said.

Also,  $72,000.

The investigation alleges the employees entered false values on vehicle title form applications resulting in the reduction of sales tax sent to the state.
The arrest affidavits show investigators reported seeing Hefflin Lane tax office employees on surveillance video taking money from their cash drawers and storing it in filing cabinets.  One of the non-employees was seen discretely putting a $20 bill in the opening of one of the employee's vehicles along with a title transfer notification form.
The satellite tax offices are closed for the time being while the main office remains open.

"In light of what's happened, when our satellite offices re-open, each location must be assigned full-time supervisors and that will be a challenge," Elfant said.

While Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty was keen for some of the "how and why" parts of the investigation to be made public, he and others on the dais gave Elfant high marks for his response.

"I'm not blaming you for this.  These are processes that can be you know very detailed," Daugherty said.

"I also just want to say of all my experience I have not seen a better public servant than you so...I appreciate all your work," said Precinct 2 Commissioner Brigid Shea.

Roger Falk with the Travis County Taxpayers Union tells Fox 7 Austin this was a crisis in oversight.

"I have to wonder why a key function like this isn't locked down to where there isn't any latitude to have these kinds of failures. I also question what is the qualifications of this tax-assessor that we have?  Has he really got the accounting and management skills to do the oversight?" Falk said.

"I fully expect that I will be judged by my response to this abhorrent situation.  And I promise to do everything I am able to restore the public's trust in the Travis County Tax Office," Elfant said.