Craig Watkins Explains How He Got So Broke

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On Christmas, The Dallas Morning News gifted Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins with a big fat lump of coal in article form, detailing a lawsuit filed against him by Citibank that alleges he owes more than $15,000 on his credit card plus interest.

The article, supplemented this morning by an editorial, detailed Watkins's other financial mishaps over the years: the time his law license was briefly suspended in 2007 for not paying his dues to the State Bar of Texas; the disputed $3,400 that he may or may not owe Denton County from when he worked in private practice; his 2008 default on his home loan; the 2009 Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages lawsuit against him for $1,249 in advertising and the company's previous lawsuits for $16,000; and income tax disputes related to Watkins's former bail bond business, Fair Park Bail Bonds, amounting to more than $100,000.

In an interview, Watkins tells Unfair Park he's managed to take care of all of his past financial hiccups, and he will do the same with the Citibank lawsuit, about which he says he knew nothing until the paper called him a few days before Christmas. He says he's already in the process of establishing a new payment agreement.

Before Watkins became district attorney in 2007, his private law practice, bail bond company and real estate title company jointly ensured that his wallet was padded. His paycheck was relatively large, he says, and his lifestyle included proportional luxuries. He and his wife invested heavily in real estate. The $15,000 he owes Citibank was pocket change back then, he says, but things changed when he was elected district attorney.

His salary was slashed, and the real estate market took a nose-dive faster than his and his family's lifestyle could adjust. "I had three strings of income which are gone," Watkins says. "My lifestyle at the time correlated with those strings of income."

The News lists his salary as $125,000 annually, but Watkins says it's higher because he's also paid by the state, though he wouldn't say exactly how much. Nevertheless, he says, it was once significantly higher than it is now, and the pay cut lead him into debt.

"This was a sacrifice for my family and I," he says. "It's a sacrifice I made for a reason."

When his personal finances came to a head after the election, Watkins says, he made an agreement with Citibank to pay monthly installments. But, he says, Citibank sold some of its debt in the quagmire of the nation's banking system, and somehow the arrangement he'd worked out was lost in the shuffle.

"The lawsuit was a mistake," he says. "They shouldn't have filed it."

With his current position and salary, Watkins says, he's fortunate to be in a position where he can recover. "What a lot of Americans are going through right now, it's difficult," Watkins says. "The real estate market exploded, it busted. Then, it's like, what do you do? Now I'm getting all these calls like, 'Craig, what's up? You're not living up to your responsibility.' You can't say that Craig Watkins lived above his means, because he didn't. My means were very different when I was in private practice."

Besides, he says: His personal money problems have nothing to do with his public duties.

"Correlate the two. Show me where I have failed managing the D.A.'s office," he says. "I've worked within the budget that they have given me. But whatever they give me, it's been used to make Dallas County safer. It's been used to be awarded the top prosecutor of the nation," he says, referring to an award he received from the American Bar Association.

The News posted a headline Tuesday afternoon that read "Should Craig Watkins Resign?" When Unfair Park repeats the question, Watkins laughs: "Just because I got sued? Have you seen how many times I've been sued?"


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55 comments
goldsteinabe
goldsteinabe

My name is Abe Goldstein. As a Jewish  man, I get discriminated against al the time, plus I'm a victim of ugly stereotypes. Speaking of ugly, Watkins gets picked on because he is black,  plain and simple

Vote against him for being ugly, not because he is black.

goldsteinabe
goldsteinabe

i have decided the opposition to Watkins is because he is black.

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

The monthly minimum payment on a credit card debt of $15K is probably between $300 and $350, assuming he wasn't foolish enough to skip payments and be hit with a penalty rate.

What ELSE is he spending his money on, that he can't send them even the minimum payment every month?

ashamed of the law in dallas
ashamed of the law in dallas

I wish they would stick his a** in debtors prison, maybe that would make me feel better after he stuck it to my friend and is trying to send her to prison on trumped up charges, see how he likes it!!!!! I wish ANYONE with some credibility would run against him, speak up to me now and I'll tell you how lazy he is and how corrupt. I can't stand the man or his cronies in his office!!!!

Jessica
Jessica

I am a 26 years old girl, down to earth and cute but still single ... I  wanna find my lover who  can give me a real love,so I joined in the seekcasual.COM,it's the best club for  man and woman finding their intimate encounters. Well, you do not have to be lonely , you  can meet the Mr. or Miss. Right there.

DaTruth
DaTruth

I'd file Chapter 7 and tell Citibank to suck it

GAA
GAA

Every problem has a solution.  Mr. Watkins hire a financial manager.

RTGolden
RTGolden

I thought being poor money managers (your own and the public's) and living well beyond the means of your public salary was prerequisite for holding office the greater dallas metropolitan area.

jazzin
jazzin

jesus...i hope the DMN doesn't come after that first Visa card i got out of college. and, oh yea, my student loans that have piled-up and um, yea...my clients are neither as frequent nor do they pay as much when they do come around.

stillw
stillw

Toby Shook PLEASE consider running again....

Montemalone
Montemalone

I always thought the phrase was "stream of income".Was this an oral interview and this is possibly a transcription error?

Dude
Dude

I don't understand why the DMN is making such a big deal out of this.

Here the story, Dallas County Voter: Craig Watkins is clueless when it comes to handling his personal finances and apparently does not know the meaning of the phrase "living within one's means." Weigh that in your determination of whether or not he is the best candidate to represent Dallas County as District Attorney when he comes up for reelection (and I'm not saying it shouldn't be a factor). Beyond that, there is no story. Saying he should resign because of his personal debts is preposterous. Are they suggesting that anyone who is in debt should quit their job because of the shame?

Rofm
Rofm

Unqualified is as unqualified does. See Obama. We get what we vote for and nothing more.

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

It's encouraging to know that he's not getting rich of this job, as his Republican predecessors did.Thanks Craig, for the sacrifices you've made to make Dallas a better, more *just* place to live. 

Uppercase Matt
Uppercase Matt

The Texas Tribune's excellent state-employee salary database shows that he receives $125K from the state, and $62,666 from Dallas County.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

The truth is that Craig's kind of a dope.  But I just can't quite understand what the DMN's problem with him is.  His question is a good one: what has he done wrong that's really any of the public's business?  He's got a couple of campaign finance irregularities; those are our business.  He said some truly vile and stupid things during the last campaign.  I'm not forgetting those.  But $15K on a credit card?  Who the hell cares?

Here's the real story: this guy who's not smart enough to keep his finances straight is still head and shoulders above what we had in that office for decades.

cp
cp

I wonder if you actually live in Dallas County. 

Ben
Ben

I thought he drove a G-Wagen Mercedes SUV. Seems that the "payment plan" he suggested is not needed. Trade the Mercedes for a Chevy, send the balance to Citibank.

Like someone else suggested, you are a prime candidate for blackmail when you have skeletons in your closet like this. As the top law enforcement official in Dallas County, the DA should be required to pass a SSBI as a prerequisite of employment.

cp
cp

And for what public office have you run?

Phelps
Phelps

Nah, that's just Craig Watkins.

cp
cp

Yes, they are suggesting that if your own personal finances are a mess (and anything else that's private and/or long been settled for that matter) that you should have no business trying to gain the trust of the public. The journalists jobs are to ferret that stuff out and disseminate information to the voters. It's very black-and-white, at least it's supposed to be, on paper. 

But in the absence of another daily competitor to the DMN, we get their bias. Right or wrong, we only get the one side, their side. It's why they sat on a very important story about the levees until a week after the last Trinity election, it's why they printed a "IF YOU HAVE INFORMATION ABOUT JOHN WILEY PRICE DOING ILLEGAL THINGS, WE'D LIKE TO HEAR IT" article, the list goes on and on. Bottom-line, if you're not the Citizens Council's favored water carrier, then they will do whatever they can with the power of their own ink to disparage you.  

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Why was Watkins playing coy about how much extra he receives from the state?  Surely he knew that it was public information.

cp
cp

"... what has he done wrong that's really any of the public's business?"Do you not understand the whole idea of a public official? 

RJ
RJ

Sorry I don't want "a dope" as DA.

stillw
stillw

He lives beyond his means and/or is incompetent handling money - this places him in a bad position to be 'dispensing justice'. He is wide open to bribes and blackmail.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

The problem with a person in a position of public trust like Craig Watkins being in default on debt is that it sets up an unhealthy dynamic:  the indebted party (in this case, Watkins) faces all sorts of temptations to use his public position to help leverage himself out of trouble through side deals.

In this case, what if Watkins decided to grant Citibank favorable treatment with respect to various matters over which he holds jurisdiction in Dallas County in an effort to curry favor with Citibank and hope that they would forgive his debts in appreciation for his help?

Background checks made by private employers for prospective high-level hire typically include a financial background check for this very reason.  Also, an inability to manage one's own financial affairs can provide an indication as to managerial competence.

IMHO
IMHO

Your last observation " is still head and shoulders above what we had in that office for decades." rings very true. The DMN is suffering from short term memory loss. When you look at the number of innocent men released from prison under Watkin's term in office ... put there by his predecessors, I don't see how the DMN can call for his resignation. Reporting his financial woes is fair game for a public official ... but to take a pompous grandstanding stance by the editorial staff of the DMN is over the top.

ashamed of the law in dallas
ashamed of the law in dallas

well my friend does, I wouldn't step foot to live there after all the corruption on the news, or don't you watch it?

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

My point is that it's far more important to have a fair DA than a smart one.

Phelps
Phelps

No, it makes him perfect for Congress.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Would that second paragraph be any different referring to campaign contributions for ANY politician?

my thoughts
my thoughts

Remember how 4 months ago his rare, highly valuable, Mercedes G-wagon, was strangely "stolen" from inside his garage, inside a locked, high, fully fenced in wrought iron fenced yard?  The minute I read that story (Sept 2011) I suspected he had staged a bogus theft to collect on insurance.  The car was supposedly valued at $85,000.  Oh, and I found it really suspicious that this one night, and only this one night, he "accidentally" left the garage door open....but, still there was the high wrought iron fence going all around his entire property.  Supposedly someone crashed through the fence and stole the car out of the garage and supposedly no one saw a thing.

Jason
Jason

In this case, I don't agree with your arguments that he could show favorable treatment to Citibank, and that his own finances could be directly related to his managerial competence.  Those are both cases of "could".  Elected officials have a lot of power and "could" show favor to various corporations and businesses.  Unfortunately, I know you're speaking from a history in Dallas where certain elected officials have shown favor...  I just think Watkins has shown that he is an honest person who has some personal issues to deal with.

I agree with J. Erik.  I think he has shown enough good to outweigh financial troubles.  I know from experience that I will let my personal life (finances included) come second after my job but it is never reflected in my job performance.  I honestly hope he doesn't prove me wrong.  

Phelps
Phelps

You assume that the DMN gives a shit whether or not there are innocent men in prison.  I think you may be giving them too much credit.

factfinder1965
factfinder1965

That whole administration needs an overhaul. Liars cant hide forever.  Eventually his judgement is coming.  He is caught up in some scandal, because he is never quiet for this long.  You can bet your last dollar if a drunk driver hits one of his family members, they will never see the light of day.  No consitency Craig!

ashamed of the law in dallas
ashamed of the law in dallas

It sure would be nice if it was fair, but in DAllAS it only works if you have money, if you don't they don't even need evidence!!!

factfinder1965
factfinder1965

Too bad he is neither.  When you put a drunk driver who is 3 times over the legal limit back out on the road with out any punishment. That pretty much sums up your stupidity or you are taking bribes. Kharma is catching up to you Craig.  He has been way to quiet lately. 

Roscoe
Roscoe

I bet he would be very fair if you paid his bill.

Guest
Guest

This is one reason that we required public disclosure of campaign contributions.  Public disclosure of this type of debt doesn't seem any different. 

Still, I see this more as an issue of financial mismanagement by a person entrusted with a significant part of Dallas County's budget. 

ashamed of the law in dallas
ashamed of the law in dallas

yea I think he ought to be charged with ROBBERY, just like my friend was, oh I'm sorry aggravated robbery for a curtain rod and a 200 dollar camera, a whole lot more to that story, and the DA gets NOTHING for an 85 thousand dollar car, I call that GRAND THEFT!!!!!!!!!!!

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

At the time, I checked the Kelley Blue Book value versus his claimed value of $85,000.  Kelley had the identical year and model vehicle valued at under $30,000.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

You say stolen, I say "recovered"

cp
cp

You, you... crazy white libtard, you!

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