Grand jury looks into alleged Liberty Co. corruption

BEAUMONT, TX 13 Undercover spent much of last year exposing the possible shenanigans on the hurricane trail, and now a federal grand jury is on the case.

At the Liberty County courthouse, all eyes are looking to the federal building in Beaumont on Liberty Street.

"Well this whole situation has made life unlivable over there," Liberty County Commissioner Melvin Hunt said.

The federal investigation into possible public corruption in the wake of Hurricane Ike has already clearly taken its toll.

"Everybody is suspicious of everybody. Good friends are no longer good friends," Hunt said. "That is sad."

We met Liberty County commissioners Hunt and Norman Brown outside before they testified before a federal grand jury. They are not targets.

"I'm angry because we had a job to do, and I did it, and I'm not sure that it was done correctly throughout the entire county," Brown said.

We know that one county commissioner is under scrutiny, but the focus of the investigation is Liberty County Judge Phil Fitzgerald. Last year, 13 Undercover showed you how the judge's family made up to $1 million on the debris cleanup in his own county.

"He's created a cloud over Liberty County that we need to clear up," Brown said. "We need to get some bright sunshine over Liberty County again."

Regardless what happens inside the federal building, Hunt says the lesson for public officials is a simple one: "Watch your P's and Q's."

No word was given regarding how long it'll take the grand jury to finish its work, but we can tell you that 13 Undercover's reports last year have led to audits by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on hurricane debris cleanup contracts in Liberty and Chambers counties. We'll keep you posted.

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