Texas Attorney General Opinion: GA-1002 Page: 2 of 4
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The Honorable Joe Shannon, Jr. - Page 2
of the books and records of a county officer who may receive or collect money or other property,
except for the books and records pertaining to nonmonetary property. Similarly, the sheriff
interprets section 115.001 to mean that an auditor must investigate the correctness of an officer's
records, except for records pertaining to nonmonetary property. There are many reasons,
however, why a court would likely disagree with this interpretation of sections 112.006 and
115.001. The first and most important reason is that statutes must be interpreted according to the
plain meaning of their texts, and courts are reluctant to interpret statutes in a way that effectively
adds words to them. Energy Serv. Co. of Bowie, Inc. v. Superior Snubbing Servs., Inc., 236
S.W.3d 190, 198-99 (Tex. 2007). Second, section 112.006 expressly grants auditors oversight of
the records of officers who collect noncash property, so it is unlikely that the Legislature
intended to deny auditors access to records of officers' noncash property.
In addition, there are practical reasons why a court would not likely find that sections
112.006 and 115.001 grant a county auditor the authority to access records related only to
money. For instance, some counties have vast amounts of real estate, equipment, and other
noncash property. See, e.g., Tarrant County Auditor's Office, Comprehensive Annual Financial
Report, (2011), available at http://www.co.tarrant.tx.us/eauditor/lib/eauditor/TarrantCounty_
FYI]_CAFR.pdf at 44-47 (showing the value of the capital assets of Tarrant County). If county
auditors were allowed to access books and records related only to money, they might be unable
to truly know the financial condition of their counties. That lack of knowledge would hinder an
auditor's ability to regularly report to commissioners courts on the financial condition of the
counties, as required by statute. TEX. Loc. Gov'T CODE ANN. 114.023-.025 (West 2008).
See also TEX. Gov'T CODE ANN. 311.021 (West 2005) (requiring that courts assume that the
entire statute is effective and the Legislature intended a result feasible of execution). For the
foregoing reasons, a court would likely find that sections 112.006 and 115.001 authorize auditors
to examine records of noncash property such as inmate property receipts in the possession of the
You suggest that the sheriff is concerned that the receipts, like offense reports and jail
activity logs, are records related to the sheriff's law enforcement duties and unrelated to the
auditor's accounting duties. Request Letter at 3. Indeed, a county officer may deny an
auditor access to some kinds of records under some circumstances. An opinion of this office
concluded that a county auditor could not examine a sheriff's records to determine whether
prisoners were being released before their sentences ended, because that examination concerned
the sheriff's failure to perform his statutory duty to confine inmates and had nothing to do with
the county auditor's duties to investigate and report on the county's finances. Tex. Att'y Gen.
Op. No. M-756 (1970) at 3. Unlike a sheriff's offense reports and jail activity logs, however,
inmate property receipts are records of property held by the sheriff, and a record of property held
by the sheriff is a kind of record that this office has concluded an auditor may examine. Tex.
Att'y Gen. Op. No. H-1185 (1978) at 1.
Even so, the auditor's statutory right of "continual access" to records does not empower
the auditor to access the receipts and property whenever she chooses. Several opinions of this
office have concluded that the term "continual access" in section 115.001 does not grant an
auditor immediate and unlimited access to records and does not divest an officer of reasonable
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Texas. Attorney-General's Office. Texas Attorney General Opinion: GA-1002, text, April 29, 2013; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth1050919/m1/2/: accessed March 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.