Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman, Texas Ranger Josh Benson and an investigator with the Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General hosted a press conference Friday morning on the steps of the Liberty County Courthouse to answer questions about the Thursday morning arrest of Klint Bush, chairman of the Liberty County Housing Authority. Bush, 39, of Hardin, is charged with Abuse of Official Capacity, a third-degree felony punishable by imprisonment of 2-10 years, and Theft of Property, a second-degree felony punishable by 2-20 years in prison.
Bergman explained that the investigation came to light in the fall of 2021 when the Texas Rangers received a complaint about Bush’s alleged fraudulent activities concerning the Liberty County Housing Authority. When contacted, the HUD OIG assigned a special investigator to work with local authorities on the matter.
“It was important to me that my office allow Ranger Benson and the investigator assigned by the HUD OIG to fully handle the investigation and determine whether the complaint had merit. After a number of months, this portion of the completed investigation was presented to my office. The results of the investigation were the two search warrants – one at the home of Klint Bush and the second at the Liberty County Housing Authority Office, which were executed simultaneously yesterday,” Bergman said at the press conference.
Bergman went on to say that the arrest and search warrants are only the initial portion of the investigation, which is ongoing. She said the overall investigation will continue by the Texas Rangers and the HUD OIG.
“Liberty County and local officials have indicated that they will cooperate fully with the investigation, but now we must allow the Rangers and the HUD OIG to complete their work,” she said. “The office of the Liberty County District Attorney’s Office is committed to holding any and all wrongdoers accountable. I have said it before, and I will say it again, my office is here to see that justice is done. I was elected by the people of Liberty County to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and for no other reason, even if it is the hardest and most unpopular thing to do.”
When asked if the investigation was politically motivated, she replied, “We follow the evidence without fear or favor. We accept charges based on the evidence before us, and we follow that evidence and the law wherever it may go. This has nothing to do with politics. I would never allow anything like that to happen in our county. You can rest assured that is not a true statement.”
Bergman was asked by reporters to provide specific details about the investigation, but she declined, citing a need to preserve the sanctity of the investigation, instead referring reporters to submit an open records request for the arrest and search warrant affidavits.
Bluebonnet News requested that information prior to the press conference and received the documents by late morning. The affidavits show that the former executive director of LCHA, Delores Moore, who was fired from the agency in May 2021, apparently sparked the investigation that ultimately led to the arrest and charges filed against Bush.
“In Moore’s statement, she provided extensive details concerning Bush’s misuse of LCHA funds through numerous means … Moore stated that LCHA received funds earmarked as CARES Act funds for COVID relief. CARES Act funds are distributed and administered by HUD. The CARES Act funds are specifically designated for the purchase of items on a list pertaining to COVID relief,” the documents read.
Bush is accused of using $25,000 of the CARES Act money to purchase a property for the Housing Authority. He later was notified by the fee accountant responsible for auditing federal grant funds that the money would have to be returned in full to the LCHA as it was not spent on items on the approved list of expenditures associated with the grant.
“According to Moore, Bush became frustrated and said the HUD could not tell him how to spend the funds. Subsequently, Bush spent an approximate $34,000 on items from the approved list by HUD in an attempt to repay the $25,000 in a scheme Bush referred to as ‘legal laundering,'” the affidavit reads. “Moore stated this is when Bush had her issue checks from LCHA to purchase COVID masks, sneeze guards and tablets for LCHA employees to work from home. Moore said she gave Bush the checks from LCHA made payable to two companies: Liberty Technologies and County Healthcare. Moore told Affiant (Texas Ranger Josh Benson) that Bush created a private corporation separate from LCHA, called Liberty County Housing Corporation (LCHC) and was moving money from the LCHA to the LCHC to use the money as needed without seeking board approval from LCHA.”
Records obtained in the investigation reportedly show that on May 29, 2020, Bush deposited $25,000 in CARES Act funds from the LCHA for the purchase of a property at 108 Pear Street in Devers. The purchase of the property, which had only one mobile home at the time, was intended for “At Risk Senior Development.”
In her statement to investigators, quoted directly in the affidavit, Moore said, “Bush’s method for paying the $25,000 back was to buy items from the approved purchasing list. I asked Bush how was spending more money going to remedy the issue. Bush stated that he spoke with his attorneys, who told him how to do it. Bush referred to this process as ‘legal laundering.'”
A couple of days later, expenditures totaling $34,667.49 appeared. These were for the following:
- $11,999.99 paid to Liberty Technologies for 10 laptops for staff and board of commissioners due to COVID-19;
- $3,890 paid to County Healthcare for 10 free-standing sneeze guards, with pass through, to protect staff from COVID-19;
- $12,497.50 paid to County Healthcare for the acquisition of 250 boxes of disposable facemasks for staff, tenants and public use;
- $6,280 to CJ Services to remodel the LCHA office for COVID-19 to allow for social distancing and for the construction of three ramps for HCV properties.
In the affidavit, Moore apparently disputed some of the charges. Instead of receiving 10 laptops, 10 tablet devices with keyboards were received. Packing slips and stickers with the devices suggested they were refurbished items. None reportedly were loaded with software. As for the renovations at the LCHA office, Moore told investigators that a door was installed but not painted and no ramps were constructed.
The corporations Bush allegedly used for the ‘legal laundering’ scheme involved fellow firefighters at the Liberty County ESD 7, Stephanie and Chris Johnson. Stephanie served on the ESD 7 board alongside Bush at the time. She told investigators that Bush approached her and asked that she open two bank accounts through Hardin Bank in her name using the DBA of Liberty Technologies and County Healthcare, and that a combined initial deposit of $28,387.49 was made between the two accounts.
“Bush provided her with two checks from the Liberty County Housing Authority used to fund the accounts. Stephanie Johnson told Affiant (Ranger Josh Benson) that she did open the accounts as instructed by Bush, but no inventory or products for sale were ever owned or maintained by Liberty Technologies or County Healthcare. Stephanie Johnson stated that a short time later Bush told her to give him a check back for approximately $25,000 and Bush instructed her to make the check payable to Liberty County Housing Corporation,” the affidavit reads. “Stephanie Johnson stated that she provided the checks to Bush and never thought LCHC was not affiliated with LCHA.”
Johnson reportedly told investigators that she closed the accounts as they were costing her and her husband money, but that Bush told her to keep approximately $3,000 to cover taxes.
“Chris Johnson began working for Bush in early 2020 for the Liberty County Housing Authority doing Section 8 inspections. Johnson told Affiant (Ranger Benson) that he was approached by Bush to place a bid for a construction project that LCHA needed completed. Shortly thereafter Chris Johnson formed CJ Services after Bush approached him about doing small contractor jobs for him through LCHA,” the affidavit reads.
Among the allegations made is that Chris Johnson had originally prepared a bid for $2,700 for the replacement of doors at the LCHA, but was reportedly advised by Bush to change his quote to $7,500. He allegedly was then asked to provide Bush with a check for a refund of $4,800 to the Liberty County Housing Corporation. Like his wife, Johnson told investigators that he believed that LCHC and LCHA were affiliated.
At the press conference Friday, Bergman was asked if more arrests could be forthcoming, but she declined to answer.
“Please know that this is an intricate scheme that is best explained through the written affidavit that was filed with this case. That writing will have the greatest ability to explain the intricate details of this. I want to protect the integrity of this case as it is still an ongoing investigation,” she said.
Afterward, Bush’s attorney, Michelle Merendino issued a public statement regarding the allegations made against him.
“I understand there is public interest in this. When you have great facts, you try your case in the courtroom. When you don’t, you try them in the press. I hope you will reserve your judgment to allow him to obtain counsel and cooperate. I believe at the end of the day, what will be discovered is that Mr. Bush obtained and maintained absolutely zero benefit of this,” said Merendino. “Had he been given an opportunity to cooperate prior, then maybe we wouldn’t be here today. We don’t get to do the strategy. We are going to cooperate, and we believe this will be resolved in a meaningful way that the citizens of Liberty County can have full confidence that the job he did voluntarily for the Housing Authority was done with integrity and with the best interest of the citizens of Liberty County at heart.”
Since his arrest, Bush has bonded out of jail. However, the conditions of his bond prevent him from having any communication with other LCHA board members and he also is required to stay at least 300 feet from the Liberty County Elections Office, where he serves as the elections administrator. It is also unclear at this time if the allegations against him will extend to his volunteer service as the ESD 7 Board President.