AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A state judge appointed a San Antonio attorney on Monday to act as a special prosecutor to investigate an ethics complaint against Gov. Rick Perry.
District Judge Robert Richardson named Mike McCrum to look into a complaint filed by Texans for Public Justice against the governor. The watchdog group alleges that Perry abused his power by threatening to cut funding to the Public Integrity Unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg didn’t resign. The Democrat pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, served time in jail but pledged to remain in office for the rest of her term, which ends in 2016.
Perry subsequently used his line-item veto power to cut off state funding to the part of her office responsible for investigating state elected officials. Perry said he’d lost faith in Lehmberg’s ability to perform her duties. If Lehmberg had resigned, Perry would have appointed her successor. Perry has denied any wrongdoing
“As he has done following every session he’s been governor, Gov. Perry has exercised his constitutional veto authority through line item vetoes in the budget,” said Josh Havens, a spokesman for Perry.
Travis County commissioners pledged to make up some of the funding shortfall, but Lehmberg has said the unit will have to drop at least 54 of its 425 active cases as it operates with $2.5 million next year. The unit is investigating at least one of Perry’s economic incentive programs.
McCrum is a criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, who said in that role he has investigated public officials in the past. His role is to act as the acting district attorney in the case, determining if there is evidence of wrongdoing and prosecuting the case if necessary.
“I think the first steps are for me are to go and get a preliminary analysis as to what is really necessary (to complete an investigation),” McCrum said. “This matter requires that no rash judgment be made, that there be some careful consideration of all options.”
In its complaint, Texans for Public Justice alleged Perry violated Texas criminal codes forbidding coercion of a public servant, abuse of official capacity, official oppression and potentially bribery for trying to pressure Lehmberg to resign.
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