It’s been awhile since my last Helena Brown post, hasn’t it?
Houston City Attorney David Feldman has asked Councilwoman Helena Brown to reimburse the city nearly $3,000 in taxpayer money she spent on refrigerator magnets that he contends amount to re-election swag.
Brown’s office has declined to pay the money back, and both sides have asked the Texas Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion on who is right.
The first-term councilwoman is distributing thousands of the refrigerator magnets to her District A constituents.
Brown has hired her own attorney, who wrote to Feldman that the purpose of the magnets is to make her office more accessible to her constituents, “most of whom spend a majority of their time at the home, so that they might have her office information handy for speedy constituent response resolution.”
“The thousands of magnets will be included in a mailout to the constituents of District A when we announce the District A Civic Convention to be held later this year, ” Brown said in an email last month. “The purpose of the magnets is to facilitate constituent communication and, therefore, timely response to community needs.”
Feldman, in documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle through a Texas Public Information Act request, has asked Brown to pay back the money, alleging the magnets constitute political advertising. That would be a misdemeanor violation of the Texas Election Code.
“The Council Member has been in communication with the Ethics Commission prior to the City Attorney’s request for an opinion from them. The Council Member also has requested an opinion from the Ethics Commission,” John Griffing, Brown’s communications director, stated in an email.
Feldman didn’t file a complaint, he just asked for an opinion. The TEC’s next meeting is November 29, and we won’t hear anything until then. I have to say, of all the things CM Brown has done while in office, I find this to be one pretty innocuous. I worked in customer service for a long time, and the slogans on those magnets sound like the sort of things that would come out of a “Mission, Vision, and Values” meeting. Yeah, it’s probably better to use campaign funds on this sort of thing, especially for one who likes to be apocalyptic about city spending, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think it’s a great sin to charge it to one’s Council budget. We’ll see what the TEC thinks about it. Campos has more.