Should your tax dollars fund a convicted company? That's the question Lubbock County Commissioners are trying figure out after a company they are doing business with pleaded guilty to bribery charges last week.
Robert Austin, Jr. is convicted of giving a gift to a Potter County Sheriff and we're doing the story here because he has ties to Lubbock County. Last week, we told you about Austin, president of Mid-America, who pleaded guilty to one charge of giving a gift to a public servant. He got two years probation and must pay a $4,000 fine.
The company also pleaded guilty to bribery and has to pay $100,000. Mid-America has the food contract for the Lubbock County Jail and it's the same company related to the bribery case of former Potter County Sheriff Mike Schumate.
County Commissioner Bill McCay says a group of county officials are trying to figure out what's best for the county. And that's a decision that may not be easy for them, because we've learned Austin may have unfairly taken the blame for things the previous company president did. "That's exactly what we had heard. It's unfortunate, because this company provided the finest quality of service for competitive price than Lubbock County has had in two previous contracts. So, two previous contracts had ended horribly, they were poor quality and it was a miserable relationship. We get Mid-America it was a great contract, and then this happens," said McCay.
NewsChannel 11 broke this story last December when we told you about a Christmas party at Lubbock County Sheriff David Gutierrez's house. Mid-America's president Robert Austin, Jr. attended that party and even provided the food for the party. At that time Austin was suspected, but not convicted, of giving gifts to the Potter County Sheriff. So the Christmas party raised serious questions: for example, since Austin was under this cloud of suspicion, why was he invited to a party with the Lubbock County Sheriff? When we asked him about it at the time, Gutierrez said he paid Austin for that food with his own money, that it was not a gift.
By the way, former Potter County Sheriff Mike Schumate was convicted of taking bribes from Mid-America and he is serving 180 days in jail for that. Commissioners plan to make an announcement on their plans in two weeks at the next Commissioner's Court meeting.
Potter County Decision Does Not Change Lubbock County Jail Food Service
Prosecutors say Mike Shumate accepted bribes from the Potter County Jail's food vendor, Mid America Services Inc. So now, many are asking, with this verdict will Lubbock County continue to do business with Mid-America Services?