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Despite Perry Veto, Travis County Bills State for Public Integrity Work

KUT News

Travis County is going to bill the State of Texas for some work done on the Public Integrity Unit. Travis County commissioners approved the plan Tuesday.

The Public Integrity Unit deals with white-collar crimes from across the state. It had been paid for with state funds, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed that money when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign after pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated.

Travis County Commissioners had already approved some local funding to keep the unit going but Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe said he hoped the state will reimburse the county for expenses. Biscoe got permission from other commissioners on Tuesday to sign those billings.

There was little discussion on the item. “It’s just for somebody to sign the billings that the D.A. generates," Biscoe explained to fellow commissioner Gerald Daugherty. "I recommend that the county judge be authorized to sign them. That’s all it is basically.”

The short conversation may have been an attempt to limit press coverage on passage of the item, as indicted by an email included in the item backup:

This email exchange was included as backup as part of the Travis County Commissioners Court Oct. 8 meeting.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into whether Gov. Perry violated ethics laws when he threatened to cut the money for the Public Integrity Unit if Lehmberg didn’t resign. Had she resigned, Perry would’ve been able to appoint her replacement. Texans for Public Justice filed the complaint.

The special prosecutor investigating the ethics complaint filed a request in Travis County District Court to hire an investigator and research assistant. It’s a sign the investigation is moving forward.

Lehmberg pleaded guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated and served time in jail, but intends to remain in office for the rest of her term ending in 2016.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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