Travis Co. DA Reportedly Investigating Rep. Dukes

The Texas state auditor's office has referred its investigation into possible misuse of state workers by state Rep. Dawnna Dukes to Travis County prosecutors, the Austin American-Statesman reported late Friday.

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin.
State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin.

The Texas state auditor's office has referred its investigation into possible misuse of state workers by state Rep. Dawnna Dukes to Travis County prosecutors, the Austin American-Statesman reported late Friday. 

The Texas Tribune reported in February that the auditor's office was investigating Dukes' use of state workers for her personal project, the African American Heritage Festival, a nonprofit event Dukes has overseen for 17 years. 

The auditor's investigation was prompted by complaints from Dukes’ former chief of staff, Michael French, who approached House officials in January with concerns about the legality of the staff’s work on the festival.

Dukes acknowledged her staff worked on the festival but said their role was minimal. A Jan. 12 email obtained by the Tribune shows Dukes directing her staff to make the festival a priority. 

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“Festival is all hands on priority,” Dukes wrote in the email. “I don’t want any delays or fall throughs.”

Two members of Dukes’ staff also expressed concerns over personal errands the lawmakers asked them to run, a list that included smoothie runs, vet visits and babysitting. One staffer moved in with Dukes for three months last summer in exchange for helping the Austin Democrat care for her daughter. 

The 22-year-old staffer said Dukes told her, "all aides do that kind of stuff, they all take care of the kids, you pick them up, you’re a chauffeur.” 

Dukes confirmed the aide lived with her but said the staffer did not have to pay rent or utilities — although she continued receiving her $3,000-a-month salary from Dukes’ office. 

Later in February, Dukes asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate “concerns” she brought to the agency. Several of Dukes’ former staffers confirmed they were contacted by DPS. 

Michael Steirnberg, a spokesman for the auditor's office, declined to answer any questions from the Tribune about his agency's investigation when contacted at his home. 

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The Statesman, citing two unidentified sources, reported that the Travis County District Attorney's office has opened a criminal investigation into the matter. 

Dukes told The Texas Tribune neither she nor her lawyer have been contacted by the Travis County DA's office. 

Reporter Terri Langford contributed to this story.