in Houston, Texas
Only Texans could file ethics complaints under Rep. Ken Legler's plan; Legler among lawmakers accused of double-billing by Calif. activist
Friday, Feb 11, 2011, 11:43AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Texas state flag

Rep. Ken Legler has set out to redefine the venerable, fast-moving and conclusive method of dispute settlement, Rock, Paper, Scissors. Legler's version is called Ethics Complaint, Bill and guess which one tops which.


Last summer Legler, a Pasadena Republican, was one of 34 Houston and San Antonio-area lawmakers accused by Dave Palmer, a Folsom, Calif., blogger, of illegally keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money by billing both the state and their campaign accounts for the same travel and lodging expenses. At the time Palmer said he filed a complaint outlining his charges with the Texas Ethics Commission.


Although there is no record of an open complaint under Legler's name, according to Tim Sorrels, deputy general counsel for the Ethics Commission, and there is no record of disposition of an order pertaining to Palmer's complaint, Legler has filed a bill that would prohibit anyone not living in or owning property in Texas from filing an ethics complaint.


According to a San Antonio Express-News blogHouse Bill 1036 compels the Ethics Commission to dismiss complaints when, at any point, it is determined that the person filing it is not from the Lone Star State.


Take that, paper and scissors. You, too, rock.


At the time, Palmer said he had calculated that Legler and the 33 lawmakers in question had each claimed at least $23,520 in state expense per diems, a system he likened to outright fraud.


But Palmer has since stopped pursuing the matter, he confirmed via e-mail today.


After Texas Watchdog contacted him through his his website, The Committee to Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Judges, Attorneys and Public Officials, Palmer e-mailed this response:

Sometime last year I filed 20-30 sworn complaints with the Commission, all of which they sent back since they claimed I didn't cross a particular "t" or dot a particular "i." That cost me nearly $300, since it cost $10 per notary here in California. I can ill afford to pay these sums because I'm living on a fixed income as a disabled veteran.
 
Because of these costs and because this inept Commission will not proceed to investigate any matter on its own, I've basically decided to forgo paying $10 to file an ethics complaint that really doesn't mean much of anything.
Palmer did, however, issue something he calls a Dumbo Award to Legler. "Apparently, if it was up to Kenny Baby, out-of-state watchdogs such as me would be subjected to 'disembowelment in the public square' for exposing public corruption in the Lone Star State," the website says. "And lastly, when the State of Texas is facing a $25 billion budget deficit, you’d like to think that this enormous problem would garner more attention from Kenny’s attempt to trample on the First Amendment."
 
Editor's Note: This post was updated Feb. 11 to include comments from activist Dave Palmer and to reflect that he lives in Folsom.

 

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org.


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Photo of Texas state flag by flickr user paul.derry, used via a Creative Commons license.

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