Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Attorney General Abbott Settles Enforcement Action Against Texas Highway Patrol MuseumAUSTIN Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has resolved the State’s enforcement action against the Texas Highway Patrol Museum (THPM), two of its affiliate organizations and its managers. Under the settlement, donations that the defendants falsely solicited for the benefit of fallen troopers’ survivors will be distributed to the victims’ families. Attorney General Abbott made the following statement about the settlement:
With the settlement, donations that were supposed to benefit the families of fallen police officers will finally be used to fulfill their intended purpose. Generous Texans opened their wallets to aid those whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice for our state and the defendants took advantage of that generosity, spending donated funds as they deemed fit. The State took action to secure these funds and ensure they will actually benefit the families of Texas’ fallen police officers.
In December 2011, the State charged the defendants with illegally soliciting charitable donations, falsely claiming that donations to the organizations would benefit the survivors of fallen state troopers, and breaching their fiduciary duties as trustees of a charitable organization. The State’s enforcement action named the THPM, the Texas Highway Patrol Association (THPA), THPA Services, Inc. and several senior officials as defendants. Court documents filed by the State show that the defendants claimed to provide death benefits to slain law officers’ families and fund scholarships for state troopers’ family members. However, state investigators found that few survivors actually received any financial assistance, and many of the purported scholarship funds were awarded to children of THPM’s board members.
After the State filed its enforcement action, the court approved a receiver to take possession of the defendants’ assets and real property. Under the agreement, the defendants’ property will be liquidated and the proceeds will be allocated to surviving family members who never received the $10,000 benefit they were promised. Remaining proceeds will be donated to the Texas Department of Public Safety Foundation and the Department of Public Safety Historical Museum and Research Foundation, which will use these funds to fulfill donors’ original intent. The settlement also imposes civil penalties of more than $2 million.
The settlement also prohibits the individual defendants Kenneth Lane Denton, Timothy Tierney and Steven Jenkins from any future involvement with non-profit or for-profit organizations related to law enforcement. Defendant Ruben Villalva Jr. and other former board members were also ordered to comply with similar restrictions.