Long-time Wharton attorney John Maher says he’ll restore law enforcement faith in the Wharton County District Attorney’s Office and improve its performance if elected to the post.
Maher has filed with the Republican Party, challenging incumbent Dawn Allison, also a Republican. The two will face off in the upcoming 2020 March Primary.
“I’ve continued to be disappointed in the effectiveness of our current DA. I believe that the district attorney’s office should not only be accountable for results, but also to the taxpayers as an efficient operation doing everything we can, and using every resource available, to keep our community and families safe,” Maher said.
Maher received his law degree from the South Texas College of Law in 1988 and worked in Houston for several years before coming to Wharton to open his own firm.
His interest in running for the post, Maher said, actually started about one year ago.
“I was approached by individuals in local government and law enforcement who were unhappy with the performance of the Wharton County District Attorney’s Office,” he said. “Complaints ranged from the office not supporting and working with local law enforcement to poor results on the cases.”
His review of the situation, Maher said, prompted his decision to file.
“I’ve lived and owned a business in Wharton County for over 20 years. This is home for me and my family, and I want to know that my tax dollars are not being wasted,” Maher said.
Where the DA sees strong convictions and quickly moving case loads, Maher says he sees major concerns from operational to spending practices.
“The DA has decided to operate as mostly an administrator and does not participate in the courtroom process to any great extent. That leaves three very young and inexperienced attorneys to handle the case load,” Maher said. “This has resulted in poor trial results ... law enforcement not being properly prepared for trial, and very weak plea agreements that put criminals back on our streets.”
The decrease in the DA’s forfeiture fund (one of two funding mechanisms for the department), Maher also says is cause for concern. Allison opted to use these funds to help relocate the DA’s office in 2017.
“The DA’s budget approved by the commissioners has steadily increased and so have the expenditures from the Forfeiture Account. Under the current DA’s handling of the seizures, there has been a deficit created by inactivity on the DA’s part in pursuing the contraband,” he said.
By 2020, Maher predicts the county funding for the DA’s office will be up 34 percent from when Allison started her term.
“If I’m fortunate enough to become the Wharton County District Attorney, I promise that my office and budget will be transparent, and will not waste a dime of taxpayer funds on anything that doesn’t help make our community a safer place to raise our families,” he said.
The main challenges ahead, he said, are restoring law enforcement “faith” in the DA’s office, clearing old cases from the court docket and, “the personnel who are going to be directly handling the cases need to be better prepared and trained in the job they need to do. If the DA’s office were a private law firm, they would all be terminated for poor work performance. Our local government should be held to the same high standards. We are employed by the taxpayers, and we should be held responsible to our employers, the taxpayers of Wharton County,” Maher said.
Outside of his professional life, Maher has sponsored and coached sports leagues and helped raise money for the Boys & Girls Club. Maher and his wife, Heather, have three children and three grandchildren. The Mahers are members of First United Methodist Church of Wharton.