Regional News

County Gets Firm Payback

Harris County has recouped the final payment from more than $300,000 it sought from five law firms over unsubstantiated travel and entertainment expenses incurred in the sale of county bonds.

Greenberg Traurig LLP repaid $127,786 to Harris County, officials said last week in a report to county commissioners.

Harris County, which includes Houston, sought $300,586 from the firms associated with 30 bond issues over three years.

The county said former finance director Edwin Harrison had incorrectly allowed the firms between $10,000 and $25,000 per issue for travel and entertainment expenses and did not require receipts for payment.

The bond sales in question occurred between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2009.

The five law firms received a total of $5.5 million in fees for the transactions, including $487,000 for travel and entertainment.

Harris County had already received repayments of $111,422 from Andrews Kurth LLP, $27,840 from Bracewell & Giulani, $23,350 from Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, and $10,206 from Winstead PC.

Assistant county attorney Douglas Ray, who handled the investigation into Harrison's dealings, told the commissioners last week that the county considers the issue settled with the Greenberg Traurig payment.

Harrison was removed as head of Harris County's financial services department last year after he and his wife were indicted in September, charged with allegedly stealing $233,000 from an incapacitated relative. A court date has been set for August.

Harris County's general obligation debt is rated triple-A by the three major credit agencies.



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