MCKINNEY—Mayor George Fuller was sanctioned by the Texas Ethics Commission after violating state electioneering laws that prohibit elected officials from using public resources for political advertising.
Fuller violated the law during a joint meeting of the McKinney City Council and the McKinney Independent School District Board of Trustees on February 27, 2023.
The mayor spoke in support of three McKinney ISD board members who were running for re-election in May: Amy Dankel, Stephanie O’Dell, and Lynn Sperry.
“We need you desperately to keep this ship on course,” Fuller said after praising the three trustees. “I applaud you for doing it again in spite of so much negative nonsense. Um, but I will be on the campaign trail with you every step. I am so elated that you all are running and you have my full support.”
Fuller’s comments were video recorded using public funds, and the video was posted on the city and school district websites.
The Texas Ethics Commission concluded that Fuller’s actions constituted political advertising using public funds in violation of Section 255.003(a) of the Texas Election Code.
Fuller “was not allowed to turn this public meeting into a discussion of the board members’ candidacy,” the TEC said.
McKinney resident John Montes filed the ethics complaint in March after multiple people at the meeting said Fuller’s remarks were inappropriate.
“We were stunned at how forceful the mayor was in directly advocating for the incumbents by name and using MISD resources to help promote the incumbents’ campaigns,” Montes told Texas Scorecard.
In response to the complaint, Fuller’s attorney acknowledged the mayor “likely” violated the election endorsement prohibition but called his comments “a mistake rather than any conscious intent to violate the ethics rules.” The attorney said Fuller was motivated to electioneer for the trustees because he thought they were being “unfairly criticized.”
Under the agreed resolution, Fuller neither admitted nor denied any wrongdoing.
The TEC could have fined Fuller up to $5,000 but chose a much lower penalty, saying that although “a civil penalty is warranted in this case given the nature and circumstances surrounding the violations,” the need for a “substantial” penalty was lessened by the fact that Fuller “admitted his violations once he was made aware of the present complaint.”
After considering the sanction which would be “necessary to deter future violations,” the TEC imposed a $500 civil penalty.
“When elected officials take advantage and abuse public resources to promote campaigns, it’s an automatic disadvantage for political challengers, and it’s not legal per the Texas Ethics Commission,” said Montes. “I’m pleased that the TEC ruled in favor of the complaint, and hopefully other citizens will file similar complaints when their elected officials cross the line in terms of ethics.”