King Pulls Measure on Public Integrity Unit Oversight

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg speaks to members of the media following a November 2010 trial.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg speaks to members of the media following a November 2010 trial.

State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, went on the offensive against the Travis County district attorney Tuesday night, pushing for an amendment to transfer power over the state’s public integrity away from Rosemary Lehmberg, who is serving jail time over a drunken driving conviction. 

King pulled the amendment, which had been attached to House Bill 3153, before it reached a vote, but he said he believes he has the support to attach it to future bills. 

“I don’t know if you’ve seen the two videos that are out there,” King said, referencing jail booking footage where an intoxicated Lehmberg kicked doors and shouted at authorities. “She showed incredible belligerence and disrespect.”

King’s amendment would have moved authority over the public integrity unit, which is housed in the Travis County DA’s office and is responsible for investigating malfeasance by the state’s elected officials, to the Texas attorney general’s office in instances when the local DA is convicted of a crime.

He pulled the amendment after members of both parties suggested that it would wreak havoc on the unit.

“The office is being run today very competently without her being there,” state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said. “I don’t believe we need to take the money away from them, especially with ongoing investigations.”

“The amendment disrespects, in my view, disrespects the office,” state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said.

Some Republicans have raised concerns for years that the public integrity unit is in Travis County, a Democratic stronghold. At the local level, Democrats have not called for Lehmberg to resign, fearing Gov. Rick Perry would get to appoint her successor.

“She is over the one organization in the state of Texas whose sole job is to investigate the integrity of public officials,” King said. He said he's done polling and believes he has the votes to pass the measure, and warned that there are several other bills he will try to attach the amendment onto before the end of the session.  

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