A senior Democrat lawmaker is attempting to strike a deal with prosecutors in order to dodge the consequences of a criminal corruption investigation that has been going on for months.
State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) announced in late September that she would resign the office she’s held for over 20 years effective in January. Her announcement spurs a special election for the seat and leaves the Austin district without representation during much of the legislative session.
Although Dukes claims that the retirement is the result of health issues stemming from a car crash that occurred more than three years ago, the timing is curious at it the announcement came only a week after the Texas Rangers delivered a criminal investigation of Dukes to the Travis County District Attorney’s office.
Regarding that investigation, prosecutors with the District Attorney’s office were confident they could obtain indictments on Dukes for two issues: directing campaign staff to work on nongovernmental projects / personal errands, and misuse of campaign funds.
Where there is smoke, there is fire: in 2016, members of her staff complained about being required to run personal errands as well as work full-time for an East Austin nonprofit event she founded, and her well-documented cavalier use of campaign-funds raises ethical questions as well.
Now that the investigation has finished and was brought to prosecutors, Dukes is seeking to make her resignation part of a deal with prosecutors – but not before serving out her term up until January, rendering her eligible for a pay and pension increase. By retiring in January instead of prior to the election for the seat she plans on vacating, Dukes will receive $3,000 more per year – and force Travis County taxpayers to foot the bill for a special election, which can easily cost the county six figures to conduct.
Considering that Dukes is the subject of a corruption investigation and unwilling to resign before the election date, costing the county hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors should do the right thing and demand her resignation sooner.
The last thing purveyors of justice should allow is one final reward for decades of bad behavior.