Transparency

Shocking Video – School District Electioneers at Early Voting Parties

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“A joint investigation by Direct Action Texas and Empower Texans reveals Lancaster ISD employees advocated for a tax rate proposition at “back to school” parties inside polls.”

Article by Erin Anderson of Empower Texans

“A North Texas school district used controversial, and possibly illegal, tactics to help ensure passage of a property tax rate proposition that will result in more tax revenue for the district and higher tax bills for taxpayers.

A joint investigation by Direct Action Texas and Empower Texans took a look at “back-to-school” parties for parents held inside campus polling locations in Lancaster Independent School District. The parties were on the same day, at the same time, and at the same schools as the early voting polls.

Lancaster ISD used what’s called “rolling polling” during early voting for its August 25 tax ratification election, moving polling locations to different district campuses each day.

Early voting began on August 8, the day after district teachers and staff returned to campus. Back-to-school parties coordinated with early “mobile voting” sites were held August 13-18.

Tony Ortiz of Empower Texans and Robert Montoya of Direct Action Texas visited three campuses during their rolling polling parties — Rosa Parks Millbrook Elementary, George Washington Carver, and Lancaster Middle School — and recorded what they saw on video.

School employees in the video admit the parties were held to get parents to vote. The parties gave free food to parents. The parties were held at schools, on taxpayer-funded government property. At each polling location visited, multiple school employees said on video to vote for the tax rate proposition.

State law makes it illegal for school districts to use taxpayer resources for electioneering. And government employees at work are prohibited from telling voters how to vote in an election.

The video shows what look like violations of both statutes:

 

And no person in Texas can electioneer to voters inside a polling location. They must be 100 feet away from the entrance to the building where the poll is located.

School employees appear to have violated those limits as well. They electioneered inside the polls and on the taxpayer’s dime.

The district’s questionable tactics paid off. Lancaster ISD voters approved the tax swap 62-38 percent, with a dismal 2.5 percent voter turnout. In-person early voters, including those who cast ballots at the early voting parties, voted for the tax swap proposition by a 269-65 margin. Election Day voters, who cast ballots at a local library, were more closely divided, 124-100.”

TEC Rules In Favor of DAT’s Complaint Against Catherine Goodman

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The Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) has affirmed Direct Action Texas’ complaint against Catherine Goodman, former candidate for Tarrant County Probate Court 1.  DAT filed the complaint when we noticed that Goodman had accepted $5,000 over the limit set by the Judicial Fairness Act from a married couple. (For the original article on the complaint click HERE.)

The married couple in question are Dyann and Jere McCully. Dyann McCully is an attorney and a partner at the Blum Firm.  According to their website, they are “the largest estate planning firm in Texas and the largest boutique firm in the United States solely dedicated to estate planning.” McCully and her firm would certainly benefit from a friendly Probate Court Judge.

In her Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, Goodman admits to accepting the contributions, but “swore that she did not accept the contributions knowing they were in excess of the limits.” Goodman also claims that her first knowledge of the violation was DAT’s article. This may be true, but ignorance of the law is not a good habit for a lawyer, and especially not someone seeking to become a judge.

Goodman has allegedly returned the $5,000 contribution and the TEC will not assess a civil penalty. Goodman’s former opponents could still pursue civil damages, however.

Once again DAT has illustrated the importance of constant vigilance. The limitations of the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act are well known but the TEC will not act unless someone files a complaint. Candidates as well as elected officials must be held accountable.

State Law: Separation of Campaign and State

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According to Facebook photos, Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks’ campaign appears to be using county vehicles for campaign purposes.

The photos show Brooks’ Executive Assistant, Leon Polk, driving and posing with a county vehicle with campaign signs attached. We know that one was used in the 2018 MLK Day Parade in Downtown Fort Worth. The other, based on the date and location of the photo, was presumably used in the 2016 Juneteenth celebration. All elected officials should know that anything publicly funded cannot be used for campaigning. Elected officials must separate campaign and state–public resources cannot be used for campaign purposes.

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Election Conversion

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Henderson County Judge Candidate Jeff Weinstein has apparently converted from Democrat to Republican just in time for his placement on the Republican Primary ballot. In conservative counties like Henderson, liberals know they won’t win as Democrats, so they suddenly switch parties. Weinstein may have donated to President Trump in 2017, but in 2015 and 2016 his donations went to Hillary Clinton, and before that he gave to Obama and Edwards.

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