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Questions remain unanswered after recent raid on Jasper DETCOG offices

by Emily Waldrep

Questions remain this week after a February 5 raid on the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), their executive directors home, and the office at the church where he is minister. The investigation is ongoing, and Executive Director Walter Diggles, said that DETCOG was fully cooperating with the FBI, Homeland Security and IRS who conducted the raid.

DETCOG distributes grant money from the government to each of 12 Deep East Texas counties it represents. The organization also helps fund 9-1-1 service, emergency preparedness, the regional housing authority, 211 Texas Information, and Service to Youth at Risk, among other important programs.

"All of the monies that come through for the Hurricane Disaster Relief Project come through DETCOG," says Tyler County Commissioner Martin Nash who also serves as Second Vice President on DETCOG's executive board. "Any grant that we get and any funds that come from Austin float through DETCOG. It is a clearing center for all funds.

"So does the investigation affect us? Yes. If something is messed up over there it is going to be a problem, but we really don't know what this is all about yet. They are interviewing quite a few people, and I look for it to be a fairly extensive investigation."

Nash said he didn't know exactly how the investigation might affect the county, but said DETCOG is a very well run organization. He believes any problem would be an isolated one, rather than a problem with the entire organization.

"With my dealings with DETCOG, I have never seen anything inappropriate," Nash said. "DETCOG is one of the most successful and best run Council of Governments in the state. When they want to know how a Council of Government is run, they look at DETCOG because it is run so well.

"DETCOG is going to function. It is not an organizational issue, and DETCOG has been very successful in procuring and delivery of grant funds. We expect that to continue."

Nash, who was interviewed, explained that he could not comment during the investigation.
"Pretty much all of the executive board, past presidents and past board members will be or have been interviewed," Nash said. "DETCOG is constantly being audited both internally and externally every year. There is just not money floating around and people get to write checks. It is all being investigated by the FBI and I fully expect them to do their job and that the justice system will do its job."

Nash added that he thinks more information may be available at the February 27 DETCOG meeting to be held at 11 a.m. in Crockett.

Wilbur T. of Wilbur T's Barbecue is a minority representative. Woodville Mayor Ben Bythewood is a past member of the executive board.