Kim Ogg accuses Commissioners Court of ‘defunding’ DA’s office, asks for $6M more
Harris County’s budget is less than two months old, but already District Attorney Kim Ogg is fighting for more funding, saying more money in some respects has not abated a crisis in recruiting prosecutors.
“Every day you delay me in hiring lawyers … is a delay to crime victims,” Ogg told Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday.
Delay, however, is exactly what the court opted for, as members — already divided over spending for the district attorney’s office and other law enforcement agencies — failed to agree on the specifics of the budget and whether Ogg had other funds she could tap.
“I am not comfortable hearing two different sets of facts,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said.
Seeking $6.17 million for hiring and raises, Ogg lashed out at the county’s budget management department for tightening purse strings and reducing her salary spending, something budget officials disputed.
“Like any business, we have to have a budget and stick with it,” County Administrator David Berry said. “That is Fiscal Responsibility 101.”
Berry and others noted the district attorney’s office has 24 funded, open positions it can hire for, and prosecutors have not lost any money, and, in fact, received additional money as part of the county’s budget, approved Feb. 8.
Ogg’s office, meanwhile, argued it cannot hire staff with temporary jobs — many positions are funded only for two years — especially experienced lawyers ready for trial.
“No one is going to quit their job, close their businesses up to come for two years and try cases,” said Vivian King, chief of staff for the district attorney’s office.
The squabble over spending and salaries is a continuation of an ongoing fight between the court’s two Republican members — Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey and Precinct 4’s Jack Cagle — and the majority Democrats — Garcia, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and County Judge Lina Hidalgo. Ramsey and Cagle have decried what they consider inadequate law enforcement and prosecutor budgets.
“We did not fund what the DA asked for; let’s be clear about that,” Ramsey said of the current budget.
Ellis and Hidalgo have noted the budget plan supported by Cagle and Ramsey wold have gutted other county departments to fulfill everything Ogg and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez had requested.
The effect, however, is a crumbling law enforcement system, Ogg said.
“We have been defunded and it must stop,” she said.