Tag Archives: Rosemary Lehmberg

Respect this opinion … while disagreeing with it


Rick Perry is free at last!

Free of the indictment that he said was politically motivated. Free of the cloud that threatened to rain buckets of trouble all over him. Free of the snickering from his foes.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal appellate court, has dismissed the indictment that charged the former governor with abuse of power. A lower court had tossed out another indictment that charged Perry with coercion of a public official.

This is one of the decisions that one can respect while disagreeing with the findings.

Texas Tribune story.

The system did its job.

A Travis County grand jury indicted Perry on charges of abuse of power over his veto of money for the Public Integrity Unit run out of the Travis County district attorney’s office. The DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, had pleaded guilty to drunken driving and served some time in jail. Perry said she should resign and if she didn’t he would veto money for the Public Integrity Unit, which is charged with investigating wrongdoing among public officials.

Lehmberg should have quit. But she didn’t. So Perry followed through on his threat and vetoed the money. I must add here that Lehmberg is a Democrat, while Perry is a Republican.

So, the grand jury indicted him — while Perry was finishing up his stint as governor and preparing to run for president of the United States. Perry accused the grand jury of playing politics. Travis County is a Democratic bastion; Perry, of course, is a Republican. I’ll point out, too, that the special prosecutor who presented the case to the grand jury also is a Republican.

I actually thought the lesser of the charges — the coercion part — had more staying power. Silly me. I didn’t expect a lower court to toss that one first.

I never liked the idea of a governor telling an elected county official to quit. That wasn’t his call to make, given that the district attorney is answerable only to the people who elected her. Gov. Perry tried to bully Lehmberg into doing his bidding and that — to my way of thinking — is fundamentally wrong.

As for the veto itself, the governor could have — should have — simply vetoed the money appropriated for the integrity unit without the fanfare he attached to it. That’s not the Perry modus operandi, however. He sought to make a show of it, which also is wrong — but not illegal, according to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

As for the politics of this case … if the governor alleged that the grand jury indictment was motivated by politics because Travis County comprises mostly Democrats, is it fair to wonder whether the top appellate court dismissal occurred because all its members are Republicans?

Hey, I’m just thinking out loud.

So, the case is over.

Now we can all turn our attention to the Greatest Show on Earth, which would be the Republican Party presidential primary campaign. Let’s bring out the clowns!

Is Austin a ‘thorn’ in the Republicans’ side?

An interesting back story is profiled by an Associated Press story about how Texas Republicans are trying — finally — to remove what some have called a “thorn” in the GOP side.

The city of Austin is just a pain in the Republicans’ rear end.

This liberal bastion — nicknamed by some as The People’s Republic of Austin — keeps electing progressive politicians, which of course is the city’s prerogative. Why not? The Texas capital city is thriving. Its population is booming with high-tech employees, educators and learned professionals moving there.

Someone is doing something right there. About the most serious gripe one hears about Austin is the traffic, worsened by the fact that it’s the largest city in the country with just a single interstate highway coursing through it.

Texas Republicans, though — who control every statewide office in Texas and comprise a super-majority in the Legislature — have had enough of those liberals who populate public offices in Austin and Travis County.


As the story notes, the “last straw” was the Travis County grand jury’s indictment of then-Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts: abuse of power and coercion of a public official.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office runs the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates allegations of wrong doing by state officials. Lehmberg, though, got herself into a jam in 2013 when she pleaded guilty to drunken driving. She should have quit, but didn’t. Perry then insisted that she quit. Still, she didn’t. Then he threatened to withhold money appropriated by the Legislature for the Public Integrity Unit if she didn’t step down. She stayed. Then he vetoed the money.

The grand jury said he shouldn’t have done it that way. Thus, the indictment.

The 2015 Legislature has taken action against Austin. The Public Integrity Unit has been moved out of the DA’s office and put under the authority of the Texas Rangers, an arm of the Department of Public Safety, whose head is appointed by, um, the governor, who now happens to be Republican Greg Abbott.

Oh, but hey. They’re going to take politics out of it, isn’t that right?

Sure thing.

Meanwhile, Austin and Travis County voters will get to continue electing politicians more to their liking.

Keep it up, folks.


Perry needs to go to trial quickly

Prosecutors have defined more sharply the allegations of abuse of power leveled against former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

So, let’s get this trial underway in short order, OK?


The state has redefined the charges, bringing them into sharper focus. They result from an Aug. 15, 2014 Travis County grand jury indictment charging the then-governor with two felonies: abuse of power and coercion of a public official.

As the Texas Tribune reports, the charges stem from his public threat to veto money appropriated for the Public Integrity Unit run by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who pleaded guilty to drunken driving. Perry wanted Lehmberg to quit. She didn’t, so he made good on his threat, vetoing the $7.5 million appropriated by the Legislature for the PIU.

According to the Tribune: “The prosecutors argue that a governor’s veto power is not absolute, and can be misused for criminal purposes. In this case, they contend, Perry’s veto threat was meant to accomplish one of two goals: either forcing an independent, local elected official out of office or hindering corruption investigations. Either goal was illegal, they say.”

It’s the interference in the affairs of an “independent, local official” that rubs so many of us the wrong way.

The governor does have the authority to veto money the Legislature appropriates. Gov. Perry would have been on firmer footing had he kept his trap shut prior to vetoing the money. He didn’t. Instead, he made a big public splash about Lehmberg’s conduct — which surely was abominable. Perry became entangled in the DA’s office improperly. He had no legal standing to force her to do anything.

All the governor had to do was veto the money without making such a huge public issue of Lehmberg’s DUI arrest.

Judge Bert Richardson, who now sits on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, had declined a defense motion to dismiss the indictments. The trial should go forward, he said.

So it will. Let’s get this thing done. After all, the former governor has a presidential campaign to launch — provided, of course, he isn’t convicted of the crimes for which he’s been charged.


Public integrity takes hit from veto

Rick Perry won’t acknowledge this, of course, but I’ll say it anyway.

The former Texas governor’s veto of money for the Public Integrity Unit has stripped that office’s ability to do its job on behalf of Texans interested in preserving an ethical state government.


The Public Integrity Unit has been the subject of much controversy ever since Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s arrest on drunken driving charges, to which she pleaded guilty. Perry then entered the fray and sought her resignation. If she didn’t quit, he said he’d veto $7.5 million appropriated for the office. Lehmberg didn’t quit; Perry vetoed the money.

Now we find out that the office didn’t have the fund to pursue some important ethical investigations.

Thanks a lot, governor.

The PIU was going to examine some contract issues with the Department of Public Safety. No can do now, given the absence of money.

The Legislature now is likely to consider referring a constitutional amendment to voters this year that would call for placing the PIU in the hands of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, and removing it from the Travis County DA’s office.

I’m not at all sure that would be an improvement. Both offices are run by partisan politicians; Lehmberg is a Democrat, Attorney General Ken Paxton is a Republican. GOP officeholders long have accused Lehmberg of targeting Republicans; meanwhile, look for Democrats to make the same accusation in reverse if the office transfers to the AG’s authority.

The veto has rippled its way across the political landscape. A grand jury indicted Perry on abuse of power and coercion. The case has yet to be settled.

Still, the damage was done.

The Public Integrity Unit’s pursuit of ethical complaints has been derailed.

Thanks for nothing, Gov. Perry.



Where to put Public Integrity Unit

This one has tied me up in knots.

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Spring, has pitched a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove the state’s Public Integrity Unit from the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and place it in the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

It’s a no-brainer, yes?

Not exactly.


This has “political payback” written all over it.

The Public Integrity Unit became the source of intense controversy this past summer when a grand jury indicted former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public official, DA Rosemary Lehmberg.

OK. Hang with me. Lehmberg is a Democrat. Perry is a Republican. Lehmberg pleaded guilty to drunken driving and should have quit her office; she didn’t. Perry then issued a public threat to veto money for the Public Integrity Unit if Lehmberg didn’t resign. She stayed in office and Perry made good on his threat.

The grand jury — guided by a special prosecutor — returned the indictment and Perry accused the panel of playing raw politics.

Now comes the Legislature controlled by Republicans, saying that the attorney general, Republican Ken Paxton, should manage the Public Integrity Unit.

The Public Integrity Unit’s major responsibility is to investigate complaints against officials who’ve been accused of misusing their authority. The office has investigated Democrats as well as Republicans. Has it been an inherently partisan political office, targeting Republican officeholders unfairly? I haven’t followed the PIU’s activities closely enough over the years to draw that conclusion.

Riddle’s legislation would amend the Texas Constitution to put the PIU under the attorney general’s purview. Can an agency run by a partisan Republican do a thorough, fair, unbiased and objective job of investigation complaints leveled against public officials?

I think so, just as I believe the Travis County DA’s office can do the very same thing.

Why change? Well, it seems that Riddle and other legislative Republicans are seeking to make good on a campaign promise. As the San Antonio Express-News notes in a blog about Riddle’s proposal: “Republicans prefer that model, in part because the current set-up gives power for investigating mostly GOP state leaders in the hands of a prosecutor elected by one of the most liberal parts of the state.”


Here’s a possible third option: How about creating an independent agency led by someone approved by a bipartisan panel of legislators?

Gov. Perry loses key dismissal fight

A state district judge has ruled that Texas Gov. Rick Perry should stand trial for felony charges related to his alleged abuse of power.

Good. Now let’s get the trial started and then concluded, OK?


Perry legal team sought a dismissal on the grounds that special prosecutor Michael McCrum wasn’t sworn in properly, rendering all his actions taken during the time he has investigated Perry to be invalid.

Today, Judge Bert Richardson said in Austin that McCrum’s swearing in was sufficient and that he has standing to prosecute the governor on two felony counts. “This court concludes that Mr. McCrum’s authority was not voided by the procedural irregularities in how and when the oath of office and statement of officer were administered and filed,” Richardson said in his ruling.

A grand jury indicted Perry on abuse of power and coercion of a public official in connection with his veto of money appropriated for the Public Integrity Unit run out of the Travis County district attorney’s office. He threatened to yank the money after DA Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunken driving. She pleaded guilty to the crime and served jail time. Perry demanded she quit. She didn’t. So, Perry vetoed the money appropriated by the Legislature for the integrity unit she runs.

This case is riddled with political overtones and consequences.

Perry is pondering a run for the presidency in 2016. He doesn’t want this case hanging over his head. Frankly, I happen to agree with him. Let’s get this thing settled.

As for Lehmberg, she’s going to bow out when her term expires. She should have quit when she got popped for the DUI. Had she done so, Perry could have appointed a Republican DA to replace the outgoing Democrat.

Do you see how this is so, so political?

Perry calls the indictment a serious overreach. He has received a lot of legal support — from Democrats as well as Republicans.

So, let’s get this case settled. If he’s acquitted of both charges, he can crow all he wants about his huge victory in court.

But if he’s convicted of just one of them — and I still think the coercion charge is the stronger of the two counts — well, the governor can kiss the White House good bye.

I’m ready to have this case decided.


This DUI doesn't get under Perry's skin

Texas Gov. Rick Perry must have gotten over his anger at a public official’s arrest for drunken driving.

What got him all worked up when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg got busted doesn’t seem to phase him when it involves Jack Stick, the top lawyer for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Oh, I know now what it is.

Lehmberg is a Democrat; Stick is a Republican — like Perry.


Stick got popped for DUI and faces a pre-trial hearing. We’ve heard nary a peep from Perry’s office over this one. Compare that to what happened when Lehmberg got arrested, pleaded guilty and then served jail time. Perry threatened to veto money for her public integrity office, which he did. A Travis County grand jury looked into that and indicted him on abuse of official power.

Perry just couldn’t stand it when a Democrat got busted for drunken driving. When it’s a Republican, though, well that’s different.

OK, the cases aren’t identical. Lehmberg behaved boorishly when she was booked into jail. Stick apparently has minded his manners.

It still interests me that the lame-duck governor would get so worked up over one case but clam up on another one.

Aren’t they both worthy of the governor’s righteous anger?

Governor had no business demanding resignation

Dave Kemp is a friend of mine who happens to be a lawyer who works in the public sector.

He knows Texas law better than most folks, including me. He put something on Facebook today about Gov. Rick Perry’s indictment that is worth sharing here.

Kemp writes: “There is a lot of spin going on involving the Governor’s felony indictments. Here are my observations: 1. Whether or not the Travis County DA should have resigned is not the question. The question is did the governor violate the Texas Penal Code by trying to force her to resign. Therefore, Perry should stop trashing Ms. Lehmberg, who has paid the price for her own criminal conduct – she pled guilty and served jail time. And a removal suit against her was unsuccessful. So focus on your own conduct, Governor. 2. What business it is of the governor if the DA doesn’t resign? That’s what elections and removal suits are for. The governor had no responsibility for the DA’s conduct. We must conclude that at best he was using bullying tactics that he would condemn if a Washington politician tried using. 3. What collateral damage did the governor do by cutting the funding for the Public Integrity Unit? It certainly didn’t harm the DA. But it could have harmed other criminal investigations. The veto was an irresponsible act.”

The most interesting element in this post is contained smack in the middle of it.

“What business is it of the governor if the DA doesn’t resign? That’s what elections and removal suits are for.”

A grand jury indicted Perry on two felony counts of abuse of power and coercion. He demanded that Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg resign after her drunk-driving conviction. If she didn’t do as he demanded, he then threatened to veto money for the public integrity unit her office operates. She didn’t quit; he vetoed the money.

Kemp’s point is a valid one.

Gov. Perry became entangled in what essentially is a local political matter. I agree that Lehmberg behaved badly; she broke the law and should have resigned. I said so, too, at the time. She didn’t listen to me, either.

However, for the governor to then carry this fight further speaks to political bullying.

It’s been reported that other DAs have been accused of drunk driving, but we heard nary a peep out of the governor’s office. This one is different. Lehmberg is a Democrat, Perry is a Republican, and Lehmberg’s office was looking into some allegations against key GOP allies of the governor.

It’s been speculated that Perry’s interest in Lehmberg’s drunk-driving case had everything to do with how he could remove a partisan nemesis.

Yes, politics can be a nasty affair. I’m betting Gov. Perry is going to learn that lesson the hard way.




What if DA was a Republican?

Politicians will tell you every time they dislike hypothetical questions or scenarios, especially when they present potential threats.

With that in mind, let’s pose this hypothetical question: Would the governor of Texas call for the Travis County district attorney to resign after her drunk driving conviction if she were a Republican?

I doubt seriously that would have happened.

You know the story, yes?

DA Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, was caught driving drunk. She was booked into the jail and made quite a scene during her processing. She runs the public integrity unit out of her office, which has been investigating some high-profile Republicans, such as attorney general candidate Ken Paxton. Republican Gov. Rick Perry got wind of her drunk driving arrest and threatened to veto money appropriated for her office if she didn’t quit her job. He made quite show of it that threat, in fact.

I happen to agree with the governor on one point: Lehmberg should have resigned, as she lost her credibility as a prosecutor because she had done the very thing for which she sends others to jail. I said so at the time of her arrest.

A grand jury took up the case and indicted the governor on two felony counts of abuse of power and coercion.

Perry has responded defiantly, accusing the grand jury of gross politicization.

OK, then. Back to the question. Would the governor have said a word about the DA had she been a member of his own party?

My trick knee is throbbing as I ponder that and it’s telling me Gov. Perry would have kept quiet.

Has the governor, then, fallen victim to the white-hot politics of the moment?

Judge to Perry: Nix that threat talk, governor

The Rick Perry Story has taken another strange twist.

A judge has warned that the Texas governor might be violating the law by threatening grand jurors who indicted him this past week on charges of abuse of power and coercion.


Judge Julie Kocurek of the 309th District Court, admonished the governor for saying this: “I am confident we will ultimately prevail, that this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is, and that those responsible will be held to account.”

The grand jury indicted Perry on felony charges involving his veto of money for the public integrity unit run by Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg, who had been convicted of drunk driving. Perry demanded her resignation; she refused to quit; she served her time in jail; Perry vetoed the funds.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the only people Perry could be threatening would be the grand jury, the judge and the prosecutor. Kocurek, a Democrat, says Perry’s statement could be construed as a violation of state law.

As the American-Statesman reports: “The Texas Penal Code that outlaws obstruction and retaliation says that anyone who ‘intentionally or knowingly harms or threatens to harm’ a grand juror faces a second degree felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.”

I once served on a grand jury in Randall County. We all took an oath to do our job with due diligence and we promised to be faithful to state law and the state Constitution. Of course, we didn’t have any case that approached the level of interest and controversy as this one in Travis County.

Still, if I were a grand juror who did my job faithfully and diligently, I would take extreme exception to what the governor has threatened.

The grand jury would be “held to account”? For what, doing its job?

The governor ought to heed the judge’s warning … and keep his mouth shut.