Courthouse on the square

A $1.2 million federal grant that is said to fund the Denton County Veterans Treatment Court program for the next five years was approved Tuesday morning by county commissioners, but it did face some opposition — from the person who is expected to become the court’s next judge.

Forrest Beadle, a Denton County assistant district attorney and the lead prosecutor assigned to the veterans court, said the large sum of money comes with too many regulatory requirements from Washington, D.C.

He cautioned accepting the grant would result later in a strain on officials in Denton County.

“We have a pile of cash, quite frankly,” Beadle said. “I don’t know if we can spend it all appropriately.”

Beadle said the requirements of the grant, which the Department of Health and Human Services awarded to the county, do not go far enough to meet the specific needs of veterans in Denton County.

He also said the grant does not come built-in with funding for an administrator, a person who will be tasked with making sure the funds are spent according to the requirements, which means the compliance burden would be passed on to county officials.

Beadle said the county should stick with its current funding, which comes from a state grant and a Department of Justice grant. But county commissioners worried whether those grants would be recurring long enough to justify turning down the $1.2 million now.

One aspect of the grant that received attention from commissioners was the federal government’s list of deficiencies that Denton County needs to improve by Oct. 31 before the funds are disbursed.

“It’s too fast, it’s too soon,” Beadle said.

The veterans court is a special court designed to identify veterans who need counseling and treatment for drug use or other criminal activity. Rather than prosecute the veterans, they are assigned to rehabilitation services with court oversight.

The court is run by Denton County Criminal Court No. 3 Judge David Garcia, a Republican whom Beadle defeated in the most recent primary election. Beadle does not have a Democratic challenger for Garcia’s seat in the Nov. 6 election, so he is expected to be the next judge of the court. Garcia applied for the grant, according to Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting.

Aside from Commissioner Hugh Coleman, who joined Beadle in his criticism of the extra tasks the grant would require of county officials, Beadle had no others at his side to oppose the grant during Tuesday’s meeting. The handful of people who made public comments on the grant were in favor of it, including Denton defense attorney Sean Kilgore, who said the biggest problem the court has is not being able to serve all of the veterans who come through.

“Some of them,” he said, “we can’t get to in time.”

Ginger Simonson, a veteran networking coordinator for the veterans court, said the $1.2 million grant will bolster the county’s resources and help the program reach more veterans. She said the the grant would fund the court for the next five years.

“I understand their first priority is to protect the community,” Simonson said of the Denton County District Attorney’s Office. “As a veteran, I know you can protect the community and help rehabilitate veterans.”

Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the grant.

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @dalton laferney.

Recommended for you