Records show confidential settlement agreements

By Scott Noll
KHOU 11 News I-Team
Originally published Nov. 6, 2013

EAST ALDINE AREA, Texas – Weeks after the KHOU 11 News I-Team investigation into possible misuse of tax dollars at a local fire department, we’re learning the amount in question could top $200,000.

Through the Texas Public Information Act, the 11 News I-Team obtained confidential settlement agreements between the Westfield Volunteer Fire Department and three former department administrators.

In the agreements, the former chief and two of her assistants agree to repay the department a total of $210,000.

According to the settlements, former Westfield Deputy Fire Chief Tony Searcy agreed to pay $10,000.

His brother, former Assistant Chief Tommy Searcy, pledged to pay the department $20,000.

Topping the list was former Westfield Fire Chief Maurine Turrentine. According to the settlement, Turrentine will repay $180,000 to her former employer.

he deal allows Turrentine to make monthly payments of $334 dollars on top of an initial $1,000 payment.

If Turrentine follows the payment schedule, it means Westfield Fire Department would not receive its final payment until late 2057.

Under the terms of the agreement, no one admits any wrongdoing.

Both Searcy brothers and Turrentine were allowed to voluntarily leave the fire department.

Attorneys for the volunteer fire department fought for months to keep KHOU from seeing the repayment agreements. However, eventually the Texas Attorney General’s Office ordered their release to the news station.

In late September of this year, the 11 News I-Team reported on how thousands of dollars of fire department money had been spent on shopping trips, hotel stays, make-up purchases and a personal loan to Turrentine.

As part of the settlement agreements, Westfield Fire Department agreed not to press charges against the three former firefighters.

But as the I-Team reported, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has launched its own criminal investigation.

Under the terms of the settlement agreements, Westfield Fire also agreed not to disclose the “existence of or terms of this Agreement.”

The department also released the Searcys and Turrentine from any future claims against the three as part of the settlements.