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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Apologizing For Our State Officials...Again

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


So our governor is now under indictment. Will the charges stick? I dunno. Did he do it? Well, that's up to the courts to decide. I hope he gets his day in court, though. I'm not sure he can get a conviction in a hyper-partisan state like Texas. 

Here are the facts as I understand them.

Rosemery Lehmberg is the District Attorney for Travis County. Austin (the state capitol) is in Travis County. The state government funds a Public Integrity Unit in the DA's office, and has since 1982. The office has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans, but the highest-profile cases involve Republicans such as Tom DeLay and Rick Perry.  (Source) Why and how this is set up this way is complicated. See the link and grab a cup of coffee.

Before I go into details, there's a very good timeline at the Austin-American Statesman that's worth looking at. 

In 2012, the Public Integrity Unit started to investigate CPRIT, an agency established to provide funds for cancer research, after The Dallas Morning News broke several stories of possible misuse of funds. Here's one

In April of 2013, Lehmberg was arrested for DWI and was fairly belligerent. This is all on video. Afterward, the governor called for her resignation, saying the the public had lost confidence in her office. Next, he threatened to veto funds for the Public Integrity Unit if she didn't resign, and followed through on that. Those are undisputed facts. It's also an undisputed fact that the governor has line item veto power. But is it coercion? That will be up to the courts to decide.

But then consider this: When a District Attorney leaves office in the middle of a term - through either resignation or death - the governor gets to appoint a replacement. Further, the San Antonio Express-News reports that he allegedly tried to broker a replacement if she would resign, and apparently offered her another position. Again, the courts will decide.

Now, here's my take: A county District Attorney is elected by the voters of a county. The governor has no power to remove that official, though he does have the power to appoint a replacement. It should be up to the voters of Travis County to decide whether or not she stays.

Don't get me wrong: I don't condone the DWI, nor do I condone her behavior. I will note she apologized, plead guilty, served her time, and went to rehab. She has also promised not to run for re-election. Her term ends in 2016.

I should also note that the indictment was from a special grand jury called by an special counsel chosen after a watchdog group filed a complaint. Lehmberg recused herself and had nothing to do with the grand jury or the indictment, although the process took place in Travis County.

Let's put a different spin on this. I live in Collin County, which is very conservative. I voted for some of the officials that represent me. Some I voted against. If our DA was accused of a crime, it's up to the voters in my county to decide what to do. Whether or not I support the DA is irrelevant. If we remove the DA from office, then we're essentially asking the governor to appoint a new one, but the essential point is that the voters lost confidence and have asked for a replacement. If the governor decides to veto funds for our county because he (or she) has a problem with the DA, then it seems to me that governor is interfering with the will of the voters.

The last bastion of power that the voters have is the ballot box. We cannot allow that to be subverted. This is why this case must go to trial. 



Filed under: Politics            
8/18/2014 11:40:58 AM
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