Four weeks ago, Denton County voters submitted criminal complaints alleging local school district officials illegally electioneered during the March primaries, using taxpayer-funded resources to promote political candidates.

Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson has failed to respond to repeated inquiries about whether his office has opened a criminal investigation as state law requires.

Local voters submitted affidavits to Johnson on February 27 that alleged criminal election interference by Denton Independent School District administrators.

Using Denton ISD’s email system, district administrators incentivized employees to vote in the Republican primary against candidates identified as supporting school choice.

Texas election laws prohibit government officials and employees from using public funds or internal email systems for political advertising. Violations are a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

The state’s election code also requires a district attorney’s office to investigate allegations of criminal conduct in an election if two or more voters submit affidavits.

Texas Scorecard has contacted Johnson’s office three times regarding the case but has received no response.

Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit legal firm that fights for individual rights and against government overreach, helped several voters submit affidavits to Johnson, along with a letter demanding a criminal investigation.

Dean McGee, LJC’s educational freedom attorney, told Texas Scorecard on Monday that his firm had also been unable to get information from Johnson.

McGee said he sent a follow-up letter to Johnson on March 19 explaining that they needed an answer.

“This is a legal obligation, not an act of discretion,” said McGee. “If we don’t receive an answer, we will assume that the DA is flouting the law.”

McGee said his firm is prepared to file a writ of mandamus compelling Johnson to act.

“We received overwhelming feedback from voters worried this would be swept under the rug,” said McGee. “They were relieved to know they had an avenue to pursue action.”

In a civil suit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Denton ISD employees agreed to comply with electioneering laws but faced no penalties.

Texans regularly report school electioneering activities, particularly during high-stakes bond and tax increase elections, but no government school official has ever been criminally prosecuted.

On Tuesday, McGee said LJC had finally received a response from Johnson’s office acknowledging receipt of the letter and saying the Denton DA was “looking into it” but that no further information was available.

“This does not change our intent to compel compliance,” said McGee.

McGee also said he has received more than a dozen affidavits from voters in Huffman ISD complaining about electioneering by Superintendent Benny Soileau, who was caught on audio urging school staff to vote for specific candidates in the Republican primary who opposed school choice.

LJC is planning to submit those affidavits to the Harris County district attorney this week.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.