Sheriff's deputies double-dip suspects

Published on Tuesday, 4 February 2014 09:45 - Written by

BY KENNETH DEAN, kdean@tylerpaper.com

Several Smith County Sheriff’s deputies are under investigation amid accusations that they double-dipped on county time by using county vehicles to transport mental patients for local hospitals while on the clock.

The investigation began when a naked man, being held on a warrant, escaped from a Smith County deputy in December. The man escaped to the sewer system, and police had to help the man find his way out to safety.

Sheriff Larry Smith said he could not talk about the case, but Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham and Texas Ranger Brent Davis confirmed the investigation.

The men said the case alleges that the deputies, who are not being named at this time, guarded and transported persons with suspected mental health issues for several hospitals and clinics while on official duty.

Davis said he recently was contacted by the sheriff’s office, and the criminal investigation centers on at least two deputies but could become more extensive.

“I just got the case and have just scratched the surface. No one has been charged with a crime at this time,” he said.

Davis said the incident involving the naked man in the sewer brought the case to light.

Bingham said he was made aware of the case and has met with Smith and Davis.

“We are in the early stages, and as I understand it this case is very record-driven, and there are a lot of records to request and then go through,” Bingham said. “I would say of the case that it centers around the unlawful appropriation of government resources or funds. My office does not have the case at this time.”

Smith said the two deputies under investigation have not been put on any type of leave and were still on the job as of Monday.