Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Bacarisse, too

Rick Casey jumps on the Ed Johnson bandwagon, and he starts off with the information that former District Clerk Charles Bacarisse was doing the same kind of moonlighting as Johnson was.

Bacarisse hired out as a $4,500-a-month consultant to a courier service and a company that served court papers on parents who failed to make child-support payments.

Apparently, the $135,000 a year we paid him wasn’t enough.

Bacarisse said there was nothing unethical about the arrangement, but a competing process server said she had turned down his offer (for a price) to help her by recommending her to lawyers who need those services.

He denied it, but the sense lingered that we had a district clerk who was on the take.

I have more sympathy for Ed Johnson. He has to get by on the $85,092 we taxpayers give him as associate voter registrar at the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office.

I’m sure this was public knowledge at some point, but I either never saw it or I’d forgotten it. If nothing else, you’d think that the extra money on top of the taxpayer-funded salary would be enough to frost a lot of people. I mean, $54K a year ($4,500 a month) is a pretty decent income, especially for what was surely part-time work. A similar arrangement in the private sector would likely be grounds for termination.

As for Johnson, Casey makes the someday-the-other-team-will-be-in-charge counter to Vasquez’s defense of Johnson, then notes that Harris County isn’t like the other counties.

Let’s do like Bexar and Dallas counties and set up a non-partisan office to handle voter registration and elections.

Chapter 31 of the Texas Election Code makes it easy. Commissioners Court simply has to vote to set up a county election commission, made up of the county judge, the county clerk, the tax assessor-collector and the county chairs of the political parties.

Together, they hire an election administrator and give him or her a budget to handle voter registration and to conduct elections.

This is a bit more rational than having the tax assessor-collector do the registration, which fell to that office only because it collected the poll tax that was then considered useful in keeping irresponsible poor people from voting.

If we had that law, the moonlighting that Vasquez thinks is perfectly acceptable could send Johnson to jail for a year.

The law makes it a Class A misdemeanor for an elections administrator or any full-time staff member in a county of more than a million if he “makes a political contribution … or publicly supports or opposes a candidate for public office or a measure to be voted on at an election.”

So, Leo, don’t you think that if the Legislature says it’s a crime for a nonpartisan voter registrar to support candidates, it might be a good policy for you to prohibit it as well?

Separating out the voter registration function from the Tax Assessor’s office is an idea that’s come up before, and would be meritorious even without the politicization of the current setup. I don’t sense any movement to make it happen, however, so the next best thing is a Tax Assessor’s office that actually tries to avoid the appearance of impropriety. It’s not so much to ask, is it?

Related Posts:

7 Comments

  1. Baby Snooks says:

    I think what we need is a big can of RAID.

  2. Bicycleman4010 says:

    What about Keir Murray the new addition to the Sheriff’s Department? He is managing Democratic political campaigns as a Sheriff Department employee. Keir Murray is the son of a Democratic strategist and political science professor who has yet to get anything right. When are we going to see an investigation into his dealings?

  3. jost says:

    Tom Stoppard said something along the lines of: Democracy is not with the voting but with the counting.

    I am going to figure out a way to get folks off their lazy butts to write letters – to the Chronicle and to the various County folks.

    We should not let this stand.

  4. Bicycleman, the main difference between Keir Murray and Ed Johnson is that Murray is not a county employee. He’s on a short-term contract, which is due to expire soon. Nice try, though.

  5. Bicycleman4010 says:

    Charles, so does that mean there is only a “short-term” ethics problem? Whether he is a fulltime employee or on a “short-term” contract, the county is still paying him while he is consulting on Democratic political campaigns. As recent as last week, he was identified in a Chronicle article as “A spokesman for Sheriff Adrian Garcia…” all the while keeping his company website up, KLM Public Affairs, which currently describes him as “…the founder and principal…” Murray has been described as “a Houston Democratic political consultant” in numerous articles in the Chronicle as well as the Los Angles Times and The Boston Globe. And according to his own website Murray “…provides strategic consulting advice…demographic and public opinion research and campaign management…” I do not sympathies with Ed Johnson for the recent round of attacks on him but my point is if we are going to go after the Associate Harris County Voter Registrar for any impropriety should we not also look at others in the County who are doing the same, whether they are a Democrat or a Republican? It’s not so much to ask, is it?

  6. How do you know he’s been engaged in paid political consulting while he’s been working for Sheriff Garcia? Not to be flip, but there isn’t a whole lot of Democratic campaign activity going on right now. “Public affairs” covers a wide range, and I know that Keir does non-political work as well.

    For that matter, are you sure he’s been working full-time for Sheriff Garcia? Contract work is often done on an hourly basis.

    I see what you’re saying, but I disagree there’s a parallel. Bacarisse was, and Johnson is, a full-time employee of Harris County, and each used their jobs to get concurrent outside gigs that depended on their taxpayer-funded access and expertise. Murray is a short-term contractor who may or may not be working full-time for the county and who may or may not be engaged in any other paid activity at this time, and if he is that paid activity may or may not be related in any fashion to the work he is doing for the Sheriff. If there’s any evidence that he’s doing any of that stuff, then I’ll reconsider my position, but you haven’t offered any.

    Finally, in regard to Johnson specifically, there are allegations made in the ongoing lawsuit of bad acts on his part, which occurred as a result of his conflict of interest. That’s a whole other matter on top of the moonlighting.