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Tarrant County Sticking With Software Other Counties Have Abandoned

TechShare.Court software has been in development for years and has yet to be launched; the county has spent more than $26.6 million on the effort and will spend more.

Tarrant County taxpayers have spent $26.6 million on a courts software system since 2011, but the program still hasn’t gotten off the ground.

When Tarrant County joined TechShare.Court with other counties across the state, the idea was to sell the software to others. But other counties have pulled out as bugs and delays mount, leaving Tarrant as the only large Texas county still spending money on the project.

Travis County pulled out in 2016 after spending $3.3 million. Dallas County gave up in 2020 after spending approximately $35 million.

And Tarrant County’s price tag continues to climb. Commissioners unanimously voted this month to put another $515,000 toward the program, but agenda documents show that number could reach $6.3 million.

As the county moves toward its hopeful May 1 launch date, leaders are split on the best path forward. Those who have been with the program from its start are determined to see it through. Newcomers to the commissioners court are prepared to explore other options.

Supporters are all of one frame of mind — they’re convinced the county has put too much money and time toward the TechShare.Court to back out now.

TechShare was created in 2004 by the Texas Conference of Urban Counties as a nonprofit collaborative run by county leaders so they could create their own criminal court software systems. It formed its board of directors in 2019, and former county judge Glen Whitley was one of its members.

All but one TechShare program has worked just fine for Tarrant County, Whitley told the Star-Telegram.

“Court has been our disaster,” Whitley said. “It’s been our albatross.”

Everything that could go wrong with the courts program went wrong, Whitley said. Trouble came in 2014 when TechShare’s vendor went bankrupt. Leaders discovered the program wasn’t working in 2019. Whitley also said that issues with Dallas County wanting to be the first to launch the program added to Tarrant County’s delay.

As problems continued to pop up, county officials considered switching to another program, but Whitley said that everyone he talked to wasn’t satisfied with that company’s results either. So they stuck with TechShare. The program was expected to be complete in October 2022, Whitley said. That date has since been pushed.

Dallas County also faced delays trying to launch its version of the program. The original 2016 launch date was moved to 2017, then 2018 as costs continued to balloon.

Dallas County failed to see results throughout its involvement in the program, Judge Clay Jenkins told the Star-Telegram. Travis County commissioners, too, voted unanimously to leave the program after seeing little results.

Representatives with the TechShare Local Government Corp. did not return an email request for comment.

Whitley said the county is getting to a point where it has something to market and that the county could have a good program if it comes up with a marketing plan and the courts program is stabilized.

Tarrant County Clerk Mary Louise Nicholson and District Clerk Tom Wilder have overseen TechShare.Court’s rollout.

Assuming the program launches May 1, the county won’t need to spend any more money on it, Wilder said.

He and Nicholson are adamant about moving forward even if the launch date has to be pushed again.

“We have enough in this and we’re close enough that I would advocate that we finish,” Wilder said in an interview with the Star-Telegram. “But I mean, you know, we’re not talking about years, we’re talking about months now. I mean, we’re down, right down to where we’ve got a project.”

When asked what specific issues have prevented the county from launching, Wilder said staff keep finding bugs as they test the software.

“That’s what the process is for, to smoke out the bugs before we go live,” Wilder said.

Two separate reviews of TechShare’s source code commissioned by Dallas County and the Texas Conference of Urban Counties found errors too, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The review for the Conference of Urban Counties recommended rewriting the code.

Administrator G. K. Maenius said TechShare.Court’s code is being rewritten in Tarrant County.

He added that the county’s jail software through TechShare is among the best in the country and that 34 agencies use the county’s prosecutor software through TechShare.

Nicholson said she has every expectation the county will meet its May 1 deadline.

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