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No bids, conflict of interest waiver exist in EC sheriffs truck buy

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The Ellis County Press

WAXAHACHIE – A new personal truck and a motor home for Sheriff Johnny Brown is raising questions on a taxpayer-funded vehicle purchase several weeks ago.

Brown’s personal vehicles came from Murrey Ford in Kaufman, where the ECSO truck was bought.

Ellis County commissioners approved the purchase for the ECSO of a 2009 Ford F-150 in the amount of $26,315.35, but they were unaware ECSO deputy Matt Murrey was also a co-owner of Kaufman County-based Murrey Ford.

Murrey, who helps run the ECSO Explorers program, said his bid was the most cost-effective of the various dealerships Brown, first elected last fall, received.

However, no documentation exists, according to officials at the Ellis County/District Attorneys office and the county auditor, of any other bids sought or received for vehicle purchases.

County Auditor Mike Navarro said the sheriff wasn’t required to accept bids due to the price being less than $50,000.

Murrey said he signed a conflict of interest waiver before the purchase was made for the ECSO by Brown, but county officials also said there were no documents in existence.
An open records complaint was filed against the ECSO for their failure to provide the documentation, an investigation that has now been opened by County/District Attorney Joe Grubbs.

According to a letter sent from Grubbs, the ECSO has until Oct. 30 at 5 p.m. to comply.

"I am honest, there isnt anything wrong with this transaction," Murrey said on Sept. 17. "I signed a conflict of interest form."

When contacted again for comment, Murrey said the dealership saved taxpayers money in the purchase.

Brown, meanwhile, has refused to comment on any further request from this reporter due to the Sept. 17 truck purchase article.

"We think its foolish for an elected official to refuse to cooperate just because we dared expose a glaring conflict of interest," said The Ellis County Press publisher Charles Hatfield Jr.

"His entire campaign was about openness and transparency with the local media and yet everything he has done since taking office [earlier this year] has been totally opposite of what he promised."

When attempting to reach Brown for comment Tuesday, sheriff officials said he would not be available the rest of the week.

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