Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comment.
A member of the Texas Ethics Commission is rejecting what he says was an effort by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to get him to resign.
Hugh Akin, whose term on the commission does not expire until next year, says he received a call Friday from top Patrick staffers asking him to immediately step down. The staffers said the request was based on Patrick's desire to overhaul the commission, not Akin's performance, according to him.
"While I appreciate the offer to 'keep me in mind' if I was interested in a new, appointive public service position at some point in the future, I have decided that I will not tender my resignation at this time," Akin wrote in a letter to Patrick dated Tuesday. "I find the work of the Commission to be important, challenging and rewarding. Equally important, it enables me to meet my personal and professional commitment to our Founding Principles of informed civic participation and self-government."
In a statement, Patrick's office did not deny that it tried to oust Akin, saying the lieutenant governor has a right to request the resignation of someone appointed by a previous lieutenant governor.
Akin was appointed to the eight-member commission by former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Akin's term is set to end Nov. 19, 2017.
"This is not precedent setting," Patrick spokesman Keith Elkins said. "Historically, it has not been uncommon for governors and lieutenant governors to ask appointees to step aside so they could appoint their own choice to the position. Traditionally, those appointees have respected those requests."
The apparent dustup between Akin and Patrick's office comes amid an increasingly pitched battle between the commission and conservative groups, particularly those that are set up under a part of the tax code that does not require them to disclose their donors. In June, commission critics sent a letter to state leaders pressing them to deal with "holdovers," or members who are serving despite the fact their terms have expired.
Two of those holdovers, Tom Harrison and Paul Hobby, have since resigned. Harrison is now the subject of a criminal complaint by Empower Texans, which alleges he illegally gave gifts to lawmakers while working for one of the state's largest pension funds and serving on the commission. Harrison has denied any wrongdoing.
A third holdover, Wilhelmina Delco, was also appointed by Dewhurst. Elkins revealed Wednesday that Patrick has been looking for a replacement for Delco, whose term expired last year.
The same groups targeting the holdovers and the commission in general have largely supported Patrick over the years, giving generously to his runs for public office and helping push his priorities at the capitol. Elkins said in the statement that when he selects appointees, Patrick is "looking for people who are qualified for the specific task, have no conflicts of interest, represent various regions and the diversity of the state, and have the time needed to do the job."
Akin's letter was first reported by the Quorum Report.
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The influential conservative group Empower Texans is escalating its long-running battle against the Texas Ethics Commission, accusing a former member of improperly seeking to influence state legislation.
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