Empower Texans President Michael Quinn Sullivan has asked a district judge in Denton County, Sullivan's newly adopted county of residence, to take a fresh look at the complaints brought to the Texas Ethics Commission against him two years ago.
The legal maneuver itself was entirely expected. The Ethics Commission issued a final order on July 21 that found Sullivan failed to register as a lobbyist in 2010 and 2011. As part of the ruling, the commission ordered Sullivan to pay a $10,000 fine. State law allows a person to appeal a final decision by the Ethics Commission. The appeal is known as a de novo review, meaning that the district court disregards the commission's proceedings and starts the case over from scratch.
The unexpected part was where the petition was filed.
State law allows for the appeal to be filed in Travis County or the county in which the respondent resides.
As it happens, Sullivan decided to move in late August to Denton County, posting an item on his blog on Aug. 21 announcing the move. He writes:
I know they won’t be sorry to see me go, but the Sullivans have decided to renounce residency in Travis County. I’m moving my residency somewhere that respects the rule of law. Like so many others around the country have done, I’m taking my residency to Texas.
Looking for me in Austin? Sorry, but I will have gone to Texas.
His petition to appeal the Ethics Commission's final decision was filed Aug. 22.
In addition to his pursuit of a de novo review, Sullivan is also asking a court in Travis County to declare invalid the Ethics Commission's final order because commissioners deliberated outside of a called meeting of the agency. District Judge Scott Jenkins denied a temporary injunction in the matter on Aug. 18.
Sullivan's attorney, Joe Nixon, told the Tribune on Monday that he still wants the question answered on whether the Ethics Commission ran afoul of the state's open meetings laws in the way it arrived at its final order.