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Dallas Must Pay More for Courts System

DALLAS (CN) - Dallas County must pay more for in-house development of a controversial $22 million criminal court case management system, as Travis County has pulled out of the project.

The Travis County Commissioners' Court voted 5-0 on March 24 to opt out of the TechShare Court Project. Travis County is home to the state capital, Austin.

The unanimous vote occurred in executive session after commissioners consulted with the county's attorneys.

Dallas, Travis and Tarrant counties hired a private contractor - American Cadastre - to develop the system in 2012. Potter County joined the project as its fourth member. After the company went bankrupt last year , the Conference of Urban Counties was forced to hire the company's former employees to finish writing TechShare's code.

All 31 Dallas County criminal court judges signed a letter asking the Dallas County Commissioners Court to pull out of TechShare in February, saying the system is full of glitches and too expensive compared to alternative case management systems.

But commissioners approved $1.8 million in additional funding on Feb. 17 in a 3-2 vote.

They approved another $1.1 million in funding one month later by 4-0 vote, with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins abstaining.

Jenkins was concerned that Travis County might opt out and recommended tabling the vote to get more information on what Dallas County's partners were going to do.

Jenkins voted against TechShare in February, along with Commissioner Elba Garcia. She criticized the county at the time for "picking up the pieces" of a system that "could not prove itself in the market."

Commissioner Theresa Daniel defended TechShare before the first vote, saying there were no "fatal flaws" in the system. She touted the importance of the county's "controlling our own destiny," developing its own system rather than being at the mercy of outside vendors.

Travis County was expected to pay $4.4 million for the project. It had paid $3.2 million as of January, leaving the other $1.2 million to be covered by TechShare's remaining counties.

The largest of the four counties, Dallas County, has so far paid or allocated $10.5 million to TechShare, about 47 percent of TechShare's $22.25 million projected cost.

Commissioner Mike Cantrell defended Dallas County's continued support of TechShare this week in spite of Travis County's departure. He said the project is still within its budget and that Dallas County's share of Travis County's expected payments can be covered by the county's contingent fund.

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