Dallas-based company [was] at the center of an earlier case – which has since been dropped – against former Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles.
Sheriff Michael Shumate, 58, is accused of accepting bribes from Mid-America Services Inc., which handles food services at the Potter County Jail.
His attorney pointed to other investigations of his client in the past two years that resulted in no charges.
Sheriff Bowles was indicted in 2004 on a felony charge of misapplication of fiduciary property. He was accused of transferring more than $100,000 of campaign donations to personal checking and investment accounts.
Those charges grew out of a special prosecutor's investigation of former Mid-America Services Chairman Jack Madera and his dealings with Texas sheriffs and county officials.
A state district judge dismissed the charges against Sheriff Bowles in 2004, the same year that a felony indictment against Mr. Madera was thrown out. Mr. Madera died of cancer later that year.
Wednesday's indictment alleges that Sheriff Shumate engaged in organized criminal activity by taking illegal contributions from Mid-America. He did not report the contributions on his campaign finance reports as required by state law, according to a news release from the attorney general's office in Austin.
The same charge was leveled against Mid-America and its current president, Robert Austin Jr., who are accused of giving Mr. Shumate the money to retain the jail contract, District Attorney Randall Sims said.
Sounds to me like it's time to revive that special prosecutor's investigation against Mid America Services, which holds other jail commissary contracts around the state including in Tarrant County. The Bexar County Sheriff recently had to step down to avoid a commissary-related felony bribery rap involving a different company, Premier Management Enterprises, which also just lost its contract in Kleberg County over similar allegations. (Thankfully, commissaries in adult Texas prisons are operated by TDCJ.)It's clear that Texas needs to perform a comprehensive investigation/audit of county jail commissary contracts statewide. The obvious entity to investigate would be Attorney General Greg Abbott. But that would anger a lot of local pols and generate entirely predictable blowback, so I'm not holding my breath for him to do that. Otherwise, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards lacks the staff and perhaps the expertise and authority. The State Auditor might be another agency that could investigate in greater detail. Or perhaps one of the legislative committees on criminal justice will include the subject in an interim study.
But since none of that is likely to happen anytime soon, for now I'd call on every local newspaper and media outlet in the state (including any ambitious bloggers) to talk to your local Sheriffs' Office. Find out if commissary services are contracted or performed in house, and if it's a contract, file open records requests for all the communications you can lay your hands on between the company and the department, particularly the Sheriff. Odds are, similar corruption is going on elsewhere that nobody has uncovered yet.
Here's more detail from the Attorney General's press packet regarding the Potter County indictments: