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?
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.”
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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