New allegations in Ibarra case

HOUSTON You'll remember the case of the Ibarra brothers which made headlines much of last year. Now there's a new bombshell that's coming from Harris County's own lawyers.

The Ibarra case was settled last year, but it's a lawsuit that led to the resignation of the district attorney and helped bring about the downfall of the longtime sheriff and it cost taxpayers about $4 million. However, if you thought it was all over, you were wrong.

The Ibarra brothers were roughed up and jailed when they took pictures of a drug raid at a neighbor's house. They sued the sheriff's office and won a huge settlement just hours before former Sheriff Tommy Thomas was to give sworn testimony.

"Millions of dollars that should not have been paid have been lost," said Terry O'Roarke, Special Counsel for the Harris County Attorney's Office.

O'Roarke is now investigating the Ibarra case.

"The lesson is simple: if you see wrongdoing at the front end, you act on it instead of covering it up, and that appears to be exactly what happened," said O'Roarke.

The new county attorney's office says the Ibarra case should have been settled years ago with a simple acknowledgement that deputies messed up.

Part of the new investigation is an alleged attempt to conceal $190,000 in legal bills on the case that were apparently never authorized by county commissioners.

"Wayne Dolcefino and Channel 13 were so on top of these guys, they were so afraid of this stuff coming out that they did extraordinary things to hide the cost," said O'Roarke.

Remember our stories on Toll Road Fund 2315? A dollar on every unpaid toll was set aside for the county attorney's office to use.

We found Mike Stafford's office not using it for toll road legal business, but for extra pay for selected employees and for parties.

Yep, your toll road fines paid for the catering bills for the county attorney's Christmas party from the east side Italian eatery, Pizzini's.

"This is purely and simply a county attorney's slush fund," said Bob Lemer, a taxpayer advocate.

Stafford has defended the use of the toll road money, but now there are new allegations from the new county attorney's office that Stafford tried to use the toll road fund to hide the Ibarra legal bills from the public.

"You've been around a long time in law and politics when someone pays $190,000 though the back door on something that looks like a cover up," O'Roarke said.

Continuing 13 Undercover investigations apparently derailed that idea, but O'Roarke claims they also tried to get the new county attorney, Vince Ryan, to do it.

"That's what you're going to do, help someone you just defeated continue to cover up? Come on," said O'Roarke.

It was Mike Stafford who hired the Haynes and Boone law firm on the Ibarra case. Now Haynes and Boone is formally demanding payment from the county.

You know where former county attorney Mike Stafford now works? Haynes and Boone.

"It doesn't look good from where I see it. It's not pretty," said O'Roarke.

The Haynes and Boone law firm was a big political supporter of Mike Stafford. Their political action committee gave him $20,000 just days before the election. Stafford lost.

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