A former staffer for state Rep. Dawnna Dukes has claimed the Austin Democrat sought reimbursement from the state for travel payments she was not entitled to, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Former Dukes staffer KiYa Moghaddam, who resigned from Dukes’ office in October 2015, told the Statesman that she confronted Dukes in 2014 about having to submit per-diem vouchers for dates Dukes was going to work in her Capitol office. The vouchers are submitted to the Texas House Business Office for approval.
During the interim period between legislative sessions, lawmakers can bill the state for up to 12 days a month for per diems. Lawmakers like Dukes, whose districts are within 50 miles of the Capitol, can get paid $61.50 for each day worked at their Capitol offices.
“I told her that she had to actually be at the Capitol,” Moghaddam said in an interview with the American-Statesman. “I was thinking about the fact that I’m a taxpayer, and I don’t necessarily want my tax payments going to someone who’s not working for the interest of the constituency she represents.”
The Texas Tribune asked the Texas Department of Public Safety for copies of the data from Dukes' security pass swiped at the Capitol, but the agency has refused to release it, citing security concerns.
A call asking for comment from Dukes was not immediately returned on Friday to the Tribune. Dukes told the Statesman via text message: “I will not dignify wild exaggerated allegations. I find this behavior bizarre and immature.”
The Texas Tribune first reported on Feb. 5 that the State Auditor's Office was investigating whether Dukes, a veteran member of the Texas House, was misusing staff by having them work on her pet fundraising project of 17 years: the African American Heritage Festival. The Tribune later reported that Dukes' staff spent a lot of time on personal errands and that the Texas State Auditor's office was investigating whether the the matter should be referred to the Travis County District Attorney's office.
On April 26, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that the Texas Rangers were investigating whether Dukes misused staff.
Dukes, who has held her seat in the Texas House for the past 17 years, is up for re-election this fall.
Reporter Madlin Mekelburg contributed to this story.