Leppert and Shaw Are Ethical People, Jim. Just Leave It Alone.
Yesterday I asked Dallas City Attorney Tom Perkins why Mayor Tom Leppert and/or Lynn Flint Shaw, a City of Dallas appointee to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors, are not in violation of the city’s ethics code, which prohibits a city appointee from serving as treasurer for a “candidate, political party, or political committee.” Shaw is treasurer of the Friends of Tom Leppert committee.
Perkins wrote me back yesterday evening saying: “Section 12A-10 of the City of Dallas Code of Ethics provides, in pertinent part, that in any election, a city official shall not serve as the designated campaign treasurer for a candidate under the Texas Election Code, or, with certain exceptions, solicit or receive contributions for a candidate, political party, or political committee.
“It is my understanding that Friends of Tom Leppert is a specific purpose committee to assist the officeholder that will not solicit or receive contributions in connection with any election.”
Zap. That’s it. Wait ... that's it?
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So, he says Leppert and Shaw are copacetic with the ethics code. I learned this morning from Carol Reed, Leppert’s political consultant, that she had sought and received this same opinion from Perkins before Shaw was made treasurer of Friends.
I confess I have a big problem with Perkins’ opinion. In my reading, the ethics code says that if the city council appoints you to anything, whether it’s a city body or even a body outside the city, you cannot be treasurer of a “political committee.”
It does not say “a political committee that will solicit or receive contributions in connection with any election.” The “any election” stuff is just language Perkins has added -- language not in the statute -- in order to create an exception.
What reasonable person would not consider a committee that raises money for a politician to be a political committee? Give me a break. If I form the Help Mayor Tom Leppert Paint his House committee, are you telling me my committee isn’t political? It’s just a house-painting committee?
Perkins is a great lawyer. I’d love to have him for my lawyer. The mayor’s lucky to have him for his lawyer. But I don’t think this opinion clears Leppert or Shaw of squat.
From any fair reading of the ethics code that I can manage, Shaw’s position as a fundraiser for Leppert is still malodorous. But, you know, maybe the mayor’s “comfortable with it.” --Jim Schutze
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