A candidate for Smith County judge is defending his campaign after news reports of an ongoing legal battle with the state.
Retired Maj. Gen. John Furlow is being sued by the Texas Attorney General’s Office for receiving almost $130,000 in “excess” compensation during his time in the Texas National Guard’s Adjutant General Office.
Furlow continues to deny any wrongdoing and that accusations of “double-dipping” are being used as a political smear.
Furlow is challenging incumbent Smith County Judge Joel Baker in the Republican Primary in March. The primary will determine who will become county judge because there is no Democrat running.
Furlow and another general from the same office are accused of simultaneously receiving emergency leave compensation from the state while serving active duty for the federal government at various times between 2003 and 2008. According to the Attorney General’s suit, state law does not allow for state compensation for emergency leave in that circumstance.
Five high-ranking officers were accused of receiving pay from the state illegally around the same time, including Furlow’s boss, Adjutant General Charles Rodriguez. Rodriguez settled with the state.
In June 2009 and July 2010, the state demanded repayment of the improperly paid amount.
Furlow still owes $129,443, according to the state.
Furlow said he received pay legally amid convoluted state and federally structured payment of some National Guard personnel.
“The state is dragging their feet. We’ve been trying to get in court. This has been going on for five years, and I don’t feel we’ve been afforded due process,” Furlow said.
Furlow said he had been directed by Rodriguez to take the leave in order to receive compensation for his state and federal workload at the time. He said he was doing two jobs at the same time.
The countersuit claims Rodriguez directed Furlow and other personnel to “elect emergency leave on their time sheets when serving under federal or state orders.” State law gives the Adjutant General discretion to allow emergency leave, which was an approved practice by the state auditor.
The countersuit alleges the state has not provided Furlow an audit of the time claimed in its lawsuit and is “seeking return of all emergency leave used, some military leave, some compensatory time taken and even some work time paid.”
“At this stage I still don’t know how they came up with ($129,443),” he said.
Furlow said double dipping is a term with negative connotations, but that it is the way compensation for some National Guard personnel is structured because of overlapping duties and way time is accrued.
Furlow’s counter suit claims the state “libeled” and “slandered” his reputation and that officials have made negative statements accusing him of unethical or criminal activity.
“I’m not hiding anything,” he said. “I wouldn’t be holding a (certified public accountant) license and have an honorable discharge if I’d done something illegal.”
The Attorney General’s office does not comment on pending legal matters.
The governor’s office would not comment on the pending suit.
JoAnn Fleming, executive director of Grassroots America – We the People, said she could not comment on Furlow’s legal situation and how it might affect his political aspirations until after a candidate forum sponsored by her group on Friday.
Baker said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the suit against Furlow because it has not been resolved.
Furlow said he expects the controversy to help his name recognition but that it could damage his campaign. He said he would continue to fight the state and looks forward to his day in court.