Harris Co. officials testify before grand jury

December 13, 2011 4:13:40 PM PST
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and two county commissioners were called before a grand jury Tuesday morning to answer questions about the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

As a grand jury presses for answers about possible mishandling of DWI tests, there are new allegations of criminal wrongdoing inside the DA's Office.

Now we know a second grand jury is investigating potential crimes in DA Pat Lykos' administration. This latest investigation comes as that first grand jury probe widens.

A second grand jury is now looking into the possibility that a top assistant to Lykos broke the law. This new investigation, confirmed by multiple sources, centers around time sheets and an allegation that top assistants tried to force an employee to alter them.

It's just an allegation, but if it's true it's a crime and it comes on the same day the first probe took an interesting turn.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett showed up at the grand jury and said little.

"Don't have any comment," the judge told Eyewitness News.

County Commissioner El Franco Lee said even less.

"I can't talk about it," said Commissioner Lee.

And Commissioner Steve Radack didn't offer much more.

"I received a subpoena," Radack said.

All three were subpoenaed to be there, but they didn't need to say anything about it. Sources tell Eyewitness News the grand jury wants to know if Lykos or someone in her office retaliated against a whistle blower by canceling a county contract with her employer back in October.

The grand jury inquiry began shortly after Eyewitness News broke the story about alleged problems related to the Houston Police Department's mobile blood alcohol testing units, known as BAT vans, and use of its test results in DWI cases.

Amanda Culbertson was the first person to blow the whistle on possible faulty test results from DWI BAT vans. Culbertson says Lykos didn't like the criticism and worked to end the decades long DWI technical supervision deal with Culbertson's employer.

Properly falling back on grand jury secrecy, Judge Emmett didn't answer when we asked him why the contract switch was made.

Radack said he was just told it was a good deal.

"There were four different departments involved, including our purchasing department which said it was the best deal for the county," said Radack.

But of all the departments, we're told the DA was driving the deal to switch. On Tuesday, District Attorney Pat Lykos denies any wrongdoing in all of this and says the contract switch from Lone Star College to Texas Department of Public Safety was the best for the county.

"I have no idea what this grand jury is doing. I can tell you the DPS is this state's premiere law enforcement agency," said Lykos.

Neither Judge Emmett, nor the county commissioners are under investigation. We're told they were just there as witnesses, and grand jury rules do prevent them from telling us what happens behind closed doors.

On that new investigation, Eyewitness News confirmed it all late Tuesday afternoon and have been unable to get comment from the District Attorney's Office.

The grand jury meets again on Thursday morning.

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