An age-old practice in the Texas House is finally being exposed to sunlight, and the practitioners are scrambling to defend themselves. Like johns caught in a prostitution sting, legislators who’ve been putting political cronies on the payroll for lucrative public benefits are defending themselves with the age-old excuse that they were just engaged in an age-old practice.Fortunately, House Speaker Tom Craddick and House General Investigating and Ethics Committee chairman Larry Phillips are promising quick reform.
The <ahref=”https://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/05/03/0503ghostworkers.html” target=”new”>Austin American Statesman‘s Mike Ward is to be congratulated for bringing into public a practice in which legislators hire as “full-time” employees people who do little or no work — but happen to be former lawmakers and public employees who want to double-dip or extend their lucrative retirement and other benefits. Benefits which only accrue as “full-time” employees.
Phillips’ committee is investigating the depth of the problem. Phillips, R-Sherman, tells the Statesman in today’s edition that he anticipates his committee “will make recommendations for rule changes to ensure that not only members but the public will have confidence that full-time employees will be working full-time.”
Meanwhile, State Rep. Tony Goolsby, R-Dallas, serves as chairman of House Administration. He sent a letter to all of the House members reminding them that hiring someone to do less than full-time work as a full-time employee is a violation of state law. It’s amazing that legislators would need to be reminded of something so basic, but it is apparent that a good number of them need a reminder of good business ethics.
Last week, the Statesman reported that State Rep. Byron Cook, a Republican from Corsicana, was paying a Denver, Colorado, lawyer a full-time salary to serve as a committee staffer. She made $150 a month in pay, but the benefits of being counted as full-time are huge.
Cook defended the practice saying she had a lot of experience. She by the way not licensed to practice law in the state of Texas.
Meanwhile, Galveston Democrat Craig Eiland is counting former state rep. Zeb Zbranek as a full-time employee, and Waco democrat (Speaker-wannabe) Jim Dunnam was doing the same favor to former rep. Miguel Wise.
House Speaker Craddick, for his part, said he was unaware of the practice and called it “unacceptable… It violates the trust of taxpayers, and it must be stopped immediately.”