A Special Prosecutor Is Investigating Governor Perry’s Decision To Cut Funding To The Public Integrity Unit
There are few defenders of Rosemary Lehmberg, the embattled Travis County District Attorney who embarrassed her office after she was stopped, arrested, and jailed for DWI last April. The night of Lehmberg’s arrest has been well-documented, and her “do you know who I am” routine did not speak well of an official tasked with enforcing the law. (At the same time, that her treatment in the criminal justice system—which included a rare jail sentence for a first-time DWI in Travis County—seemed to offer her no undue leniency because of her position speaks well of her office.)
Many called for Lehmberg to resign after her arrest; some attempted to have her removed from office; and Governor Perry used his veto power to attempt to force her out—by threatening to strip the budget of the state-funded Travis County Public Integrity Unit, which Lehmberg, as DA, oversees, and which investigates allegations of public corruption in Texas. Created by the legislature in the 1980s, the Travis County Public Integrity Unit was given the authority to investigate statewide officals because the legislature and major offices of state government are based there.
Given that most public officials in Texas are Republicans, that means that the unit frequently investigates Republican officeholders—and some say the fact that the people responsible for the unit are elected by voters in the Democratic stronghold of Austin makes it unpopular with Republicans.
That background is necessary to understand the reactions to Perry’s promise last June to strip the Public Integrity Unit of its funding if Lehmberg failed to resign, a promise he later carried out.
Travis County managed to scare together roughly a third of the unit’s previous budget, and it retained fifteen employees. And now, Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum, tasked to investigate the Governor’s decision, says that he is “very concerned” about what happened, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
“I cannot elaborate on what exactly is concerning me, but I can tell you I am very concerned about certain aspects of what happened here,” San Antonio attorney Michael McCrum said in an interview with the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV.