She gets off pretty lightly, if you ask me.
Sharon Keller, the state’s top criminal court judge, has reached a deal to substantially reduce a record $100,000 fine levied by the Texas Ethics Commission for failing to fully disclose millions of dollars of real estate and income in financial statements.
Under the settlement, released Friday, Keller will pay $25,000 to resolve repeated violations of the section of state law that governs personal financial disclosures for elected officials.
In a move that surprised even state watchdog groups, the commission in April 2010 slapped Keller with a $100,000 fine – the largest-ever civil penalty against a politician – after finding that she did not report a total of at least $3.8 million in earnings and property on two annual financial statements.
Keller fixed the omissions on the financial statements, but appealed the commission’s fine to a Travis County state District Court, where it languished for three years.
On Thursday, the Ethics Commission approved the settlement with a 7-0 vote, but referred questions to the attorney general’s office, which represents state agencies in legal matters. The attorney general’s office declined comment.
In 2007, she became mired in national controversy and fought to hold onto her bench on unrelated charges raised by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct that she improperly closed the court to a death row inmate’s appeal, just hours before he was executed. A special master found Keller did nothing legally wrong in that case.
During the death-row case, Keller claimed she could not afford to pay her high-powered attorney, Charles Babcock, prompting a state watchdog group to dig into her personal financial filings, said Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice.
Keller’s financial form omissions first were reported by the Dallas Morning News in March 2009. Texans for Public Justice then filed the ethics complaints with the commission that led to the original $100,000 fine.
“We’re disappointed the fine was rolled back by 75 percent,” McDonald said. “We thought the $100,000 fine sent a message to politicians like Keller that they can’t hide assets from the public and their personal financial statements need to be taken seriously.”
See here, here, and here for some of the background on this long and faith-destroying saga. In my opinion, Sharon Keller is the second luckiest politician in the state, trailing Rick Perry by a hair. It’s rare to find someone who has done so much for so long to bring down the wrath of karma on themselves only to get off scot–free again and again. She’s a one-woman rebuttal to the concept of justice in society. I don’t even know what to say.