In a letter to the Texas Ethics Commission, attorneys for Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and Michael Quinn Sullivan are demanding that all documents, records and electronic files be preserved in the wrongful complaints filed against their clients.
[side_text]The Commission Has Been Warned Not To Destroy Communications, Records[/side_text]The letter notes that the commission’s executive director, David Reisman, appears to have “in at least one instance, suppressed testimony beneficial” to TFR and Sullivan leading up to a closed-door preliminary hearing held on Thursday.
“In my three decades of practicing law, I have never seen a state agency so blatantly working to undermine the civil rights of Texas citizens,” said lead counsel Joe Nixon, of the respected Beirne, Maynard & Parsons firm. “This is an outrage and I have formally requested of the Commission an immediate, thorough, in-house investigation of this star-chamber inquisition of my client.”
(The letter to the Ethics Commission can be found here.)
More than 18 months ago, baseless complaints were filed against TFR and Sullivan by two senior legislators. Both legislators were close allies of House Speaker Joe Straus, a fact that the Ethics Commission staff repeatedly cited during the closed-door hearing last week in justifying their investigation.
It was learned right before the hearing that the complaints were actually prepared by a lobbyist for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. (A subpoena was issued for the lobbyist, Steve Bresnen, to appear at the hearing but he chose to ignore it.)
Nixon and his co-counsel, Trey Trainor, began the Thursday hearing by requesting it be opened to the public. Ethics Commission Chairman Jim Clancy denied the request by saying that both complainants – State Rep. Jim Keffer and defeated State Rep. Vicki Truitt – had to agree. Conveniently, neither bothered to be present.
Both had been subpoenaed to appear by Trainor, as is allowed under state law. Truitt evaded the subpoena and refused to appear; Keffer was served, but did not show up.
Rep. Keffer was told by Reisman in a letter that Keffer could ignore the subpoena. The letter was disclosed to the media the evening of the hearing, but not to Sullivan, TFR or their attorneys.
“This is a classic example of a state agency working to subvert justice and engineer a verdict,” said Trainor. “The Commission staff admitted at the preliminary hearing that they had no evidence and no witnesses, yet Chairman Clancy inexplicably recessed the hearing until October – without giving TFR a chance to put on their case. We weren’t allowed to have an open hearing or put on exculpatory evidence precisely because the Ethics Commission staff urged at least one witness to ignore a lawful subpoena.”
Apparently driven by an agenda to aid the incumbent House Speaker by attacking a public critic, the commission and its staff appear to have violated both commission rules and state law.
“Legislators are using a state agency to attack a political critic, and won’t get away with it,” said Sullivan. “We will not back down from this fight because clearly some commission members and legislators want to see the agency devolve into a kind of political-speech police for the Lone Star State. We’re not going to let the Ethics Commission and Speaker Straus’ other political allies get a ‘precedent’ by meekly assenting to their unconstitutional and illegal practices.”
Concluded Sullivan: “They wanted a private hanging, but instead they’re going to get a very public fight.”
Nixon and Trainor said they are weighing the legal options available to TFR and Sullivan, and that they are concerned the Ethics Commission might begin purging inconvenient documents and other records now that they have already been shown to suppress testimony.
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