COLLIN COUNTY – On July 25, taxpayer Jeff Blackard declared victory in his years-long challenge to the excessive fees the Collin County Commissioners Court has been paying to three Houston attorneys to prosecute Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Blackard announced that he is withdrawing his two lawsuits against the commissioners because they agreed to take over his efforts to end the pay arrangement.
“The Commissioners’ action achieves the main goal of my long-running battle, and is a victory for all Collin County taxpayers who refused to suffer this bureaucratic abuse,” said Blackard.
Blackard filed his first taxpayer challenge to the $300 per hour rates after word leaked out in late December 2015 that the attorneys pro tem were presenting their fee requests to the judge in Paxton’s trial, and obtaining approval without providing Collin County notice or an opportunity to be heard.
Blackard expected the Commissioners Court to take up the fight on behalf of the taxpayers, allowing him to dismiss his own case. But the Commissioners Court surprisingly voted to pay the first sets of invoices, which forced Blackard to press his own challenges on behalf of Collin County taxpayers throughout 2016 and 2017.
Finally, in January of 2017, the Fifth Court of Appeals stayed further payments of the invoices, a press release states.
At oral argument in May 2017, the court expressed grave concern about the legality of the fees under Texas law. It gave the Commissioners the chance to vote on, but not pay, the attorneys’ most recent invoices.
The Commissioners voted this time to take Blackard’s position, rejecting the invoices as unlawful.
The Commissioners then went a step further last month, filing their own petition objecting to continued payment of the illegal fees, adopting Blackard’s legal arguments for the first time.
Now that Collin County has taken up the fight, Blackard is dismissing his two independent lawsuits.
Blackard pledged to continue to monitor the Commissioners Court together with the many other Collin County taxpayers who joined with him in uncovering and opposing the payments.
Graves Garrett represented Blackard.
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