Pubdate: Wed, 14 Apr 2004
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2004 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: Greg Cunningham
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


Details about the preliminary settlement of the Tulia lawsuit continued to 
leak out this week, including the confirmation Tuesday that the Texas 
Association of Counties will pick up more than half of the remaining $1 
million payment on behalf of 17 member counties.

Officials from Collingsworth and Ochiltree Counties also announced Tuesday 
that their insurers will be paying $50,000 apiece to settle their portion 
of the federal suit rising out of the controversial 1999 Tulia drug sting.

Several county judges said authorizing the insurance payments was 
distasteful, but necessary, given the prospect of fighting a lengthy court 

"Our commissioners court had strong problems with the settlement," said 
Ochiltree County Judge Kenneth Donahue. "I don't believe justice entered 
very much into this at all. We had nothing to do with (the drug sting), but 
our insurance company wanted to settle."

The settlement contains no admission of wrongdoing by any of the cities or 

The pinch felt by the individual counties and cities, most of which will be 
paying only insurance deductibles, is relatively minor compared to the cost 
to TAC, which is representing Swisher, Briscoe, Carson, Dallam, Deaf Smith, 
Donley, Hall, Hansford, Hartley, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Moore, Oldham, 
Parmer, Roberts, Sherman and Wheeler Counties.

TAC operates a risk-management pool that gives member counties without the 
resources to self-insure an option for securing insurance.

Deborah Bonner, who is representing TAC as a senior claims counsel with 
Dallas-based Professional Claims Management, confirmed that TAC's 
risk-management pool will pay $560,000 to settle claims against the 
counties insured by the pool.

"Until we get final approval from all the counties, we don't have an 
official settlement," Bonner said when asked about the figure. "But I can 
confirm that is the amount of the preliminary agreement we have worked out."

Bonner said she could not release the breakdown of what portion of the 
$560,000 is attributable to each of the 17 counties until the settlement is 
final, but she did say payments on behalf of some counties are higher than 

That money will be divided up among the 46 people, 39 of them black, who 
were arrested in the controversial 1999 Tulia drug sting.

After years of controversy, Gov. Rick Perry pardoned nearly all the 
defendants last year.

Attorneys representing the Tulia defendants filed the federal lawsuit 
against 30 cities and counties that made up the drug task force that ran 
the Tulia operation, as well as the task force's board of governors. The 
suit was filed on behalf of only two Tulia defendants, but the settlement 
being hashed out this week will cover everyone arrested in the sting.

Since the suit was filed, the undercover agent who conducted the sting, Tom 
Coleman, was indicted on perjury charges and the State Bar of Texas filed a 
complaint alleging misconduct by the district attorney who prosecuted the 
case, Terry McEachern.

Amarillo started off the settlement process last month when the city agreed 
to pay $5 million and disband the task force that ran the operation. The 
settlement for the rest of the counties and cities named in the suit is 
expected to total around $1 million.

Also Tuesday, Randall County commissioners made their share of the Tulia 
settlement official, unanimously approving a payment of $25,000. Half of 
that payment will cover the county, while the rest will cover Sheriff Joel 
Richardson, who was named in the suit as a member of the task force's board 
of governors.
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