Deputies get to keep generous gift

February 6, 2009 7:01:50 AM PST
Eyewitness News has learned the Fort Bend County sheriff's deputies who got a gift from an anonymous donor will apparently get to keep it. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Civilly speaking, this case is closed. The county attorney has concluded his investigation and has determined that the deputies legally accepted the donations we first told you about last week.

Over the last week, some of the 220 deputies who received a $1,000 check were afraid to cash it, worried that they'd be asked to give it back. On Friday, we learned they won't have to.

"The transaction is of no consequence to Fort Bend County under civil statute," said Ft. Bend County Judge Bob Hebert. "Therefore, it's legitimate and it is an appropriate gift to the deputies."

That's the ruling from the county attorney, according to Hebert.

The $220,000 came from a donor known only to Sheriff Milton Wright. Hebert says that's the key that kept this from being illegal, that only Wright knows who gave the money.

"There can't be a quid pro pro," said Hebert. "It can't be a payment for some specific service because they don't even know who gave them the money."

The sheriff says he'll never tell. And since neither he nor his command staff received checks, the county attorney has told him the donations were perfectly legal.

"I felt all along that we were OK with it," said Wright. "I didn't have any concern. It was just a matter of getting everybody on the same page."

Deputies and detectives are thankful, not just for the money, but for being recognized for their hard work and dedication to public safety.

"I'm glad that somebody appreciates us and a lot of deputies could use the help," said Deputy Jesse Zamaripa. "A lot of us do hurt financially and that was just a great boost for us."

We should note that the attorney general's office says it has not been contacted by county officials about this issue, so it can't render an opinion on the donations.

District Attorney John Healey says he is still conducting an investigation to determine if there has been any violation of criminal law.

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