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Allegations of Official Misconduct

District Clerk Resigns after Arrest for Child Support Funds Theft

After serving eleven years as a county employee and six years as the Nacogdoches District Clerk,  Donna Phillips resigned last month after she was arrested on charges she stole more than $15,000 from the child support account she oversees. 

Officers with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Texas Rangers arrested Phillips at her home April 3rd, charging her with theft by a public servant.

She was then arraigned by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Dorothy Tigner-Thompson, who set her bond at $8,500. Phillips was immediately released after bonding out of jail.

At a press conference held in the commissioners courtroom packed with many elected officials and county staff, District Attorney Stephanie Stephens said the investigation into Phillip’s alleged crimes began after County Auditor Keith Barber and his staff discovered some "irregularities" in the child support account in Phillips' office.



"When their questions could not be answered satisfactorily, they brought these matters to the attention of Nacogdoches County Attorney Jeff Davis and myself," Stephens said. "At my request, an investigation was begun by the Texas Rangers with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

The investigation showed that child support payments made in cash to the office were never deposited into the official account, where the payments are then passed to the custodial parent. Instead, money from the general and trust accounts maintained in the district clerk's office indicated that funds had been moved from those accounts into the child support account "to cover the shortages," according to Phillips' arrest affidavit.

"The audit conducted by Mr. Barber's office showed that  $15,758.16 was taken," Stephens said at the press conference. Adding, "The investigation is not over; I think it's safe to say that there is a little more work to be done and some loose ends that need to be tied up." Stephens acknowledged that the $15,000 in missing money was only for the year 2007.

In depth audits are currently being conducted by Barber and his staff to see how far back the embezzlement started and if more money is missing than the 2007 figure.

"They (the auditors) will keep going back until they find where it started", Stephens said. She stressed that no parent appears to have gone without child support funds because of this incident.

After her arrest, Phillips sent a handwritten note to County Judge Joe English resigning from her position and admitting to "mistakes" and "wrongdoing."

"I am very sorry for my wrongdoing, and regret that I have not served to the best of my ability for the citizens and employees of the county," she wrote in the letter. "Forgive my mistakes, and thank you for your kindness to me during the years."

According to an article published in The Daily Sentinel, Phillips is no stranger to controversy.  In July of 2002, before being elected as district clerk, Phillips was reprimanded for distributing fliers inviting some county employees to a private party where sexually oriented items were sold. The fliers were printed on a courthouse copy machine, but after the district attorney's office looked into the allegations of misuse of government property, it was deemed insignificant, costing the county only 17 cents.

Based on the evidence in the current case and what Phillips told authorities, Stephens said they do not believe anyone else in the office was a part of the crime. Phillips, whose annual salary was $42,732, now faces the possibility of spending ten years in prison and paying a $10,000 fine for the third degree felony.

District Judges Campbell Cox and Ed Klein have appointed Loretta Cammack to take over the vacated District Clerk’s position until the term ends in December 2008. Cammack ran against Phillips six years ago for the Republican nomination for district clerk, but lost in the March primary election.

Source: The Daily Sentinel

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