DA OKs SBOE Member's Lobby Connections

State Board of Education member-elect Thomas Ratliffe speaks to a special hearing on history at the Capitol Extension.
State Board of Education member-elect Thomas Ratliffe speaks to a special hearing on history at the Capitol Extension.

The Travis County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit weighed in today on whether State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, has committed a crime in serving on the board while employed as a lobbyist.

"We have determined that it does not appear that any crime has been committed over which our office would have jurisdiction and venue," said Susan Oswalt in a letter to SBOE chairwoman Gail Lowe. 

Ratliff asked the Public Integrity Unit, the branch of the DA's office charged with investigating statewide charges of public corruption, to review his case in response to questions from conservatives, including the Texas Eagle Forum, about his eligibility. Ratliff defeated staunch social conservative Don McLeroy, the board's former chairman, in the Republican primary in March 2010.

Earlier this year, Lowe, prompted by Ratliff, also filed a request for an attorney general's opinion on the issue. The attorney general's office is considering whether Ratliff violated a section of the Education Code that says a person may not serve on the board "if that person is subject to registration as a lobbyist 'by virtue of the person's activities for compensation in or on behalf of  a profession, business or association related to the operation of the board.'" Ratliff and Lowe asked the AG's office to rule on that question, because they sought clarification of the education law — a separate question from the one directed to the Public Integrity Unit about whether he had committed a crime.

Lowe's request, drafted by Texas Education Agency attorney David Anderson, also acknowledges that while the board understands that the Legislature did not intend to prohibit all registered lobbyists from serving on the board, only those engaged in certain activities. "My questions involve what types of activities would trigger the prohibition under [the Education Code] and thus prohibit such person from serving on the Board," she wrote.

Download the full letter from the Public Integrity Unit above.

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