A senior Austin-area Democrat is facing serious jail time, as earlier today a grand jury handed down an indictment for corruption charges.
Longtime local lawmaker Democrat Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) may face as much as 28 years in prison, having been indicted earlier today by a grand jury on 13 felony counts of tampering with public records and two misdemeanors for abuse of official capacity.
In regards to the abuse of official capacity charges, one is for using legislative staff for personal purposes. The other charge involves using campaign funds for personal purposes. Dukes’ cavalier use of campaign funds is well-documented, and has been the subject of discussion and investigation for quite some time. If convicted on both misdemeanor charges, Dukes would face a maximum penalty of 1 year in prison and a $4,000 fine for each charge.
That pales in comparison to the staggering 13 felony charges of tampering with public records, which are based on the accusation that Dukes defrauded the state by filing for her legislative per diem during the 2014 interim on days she did not travel to the capitol to conduct legislative business. This allegation stems from one of Dukes’ former staffers, who claims Dukes had her file per diem requests on days she may not have even worked at all.
After a warrant was issued for the representative’s arrest, Dukes turned herself in to Travis County authorities for booking.
Although she will probably not receive the maximum sentence, it is likely that Dukes will face criminal penalties for her ham-fisted attempt at defrauding state taxpayers. It is difficult to justify any kind of state reimbursement or benefits for a Representative who misses 80 percent of their legislative obligations and plays so fast-and-loose with the responsibilities of public office.
What is most offensive about Dukes’ behavior is that even if she is placed behind bars and penalized to the maximum extent of the law, she will still collect a luxurious state-provided pension for the rest of her days.
Perhaps her hyperbolically bad example could be the impetus to pass unmolested the much-needed ethics reform that House leadership bastardized and ruined last session.