Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
Travis County prosecutors will not press criminal charges against Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller for tapping taxpayer funds for two trips that involved personal activities — including an appearance in a Mississippi rodeo and the receipt of a medical injection in Oklahoma called the “Jesus Shot.”
“We have decided to close our file and not pursue criminal charges against Commissioner Miller on these allegations,” Assistant District Attorney Susan Oswalt wrote in a memo to the Texas Department of Public Safety dated Sept. 8 first reported by The Houston Chronicle. “Our office has determined that criminal intent would be difficult to prove in this case.”
Travis County was reviewing an investigation that the Texas Rangers launched after the liberal advocacy group Progress Texas filed complaints about the Stephenville Republican’s February 2015 trips.
Those complaints followed media reports indicating that Miller personally benefitted from the state-funded trips.
A statement posted Tuesday to Miller's Facebook account said the commissioner was "pleased this process is now complete and that he has been cleared of any wrongdoing." The statement also thanked the Travis County District Attorney's office and the Texas Rangers for their "professionalism."
In previous interviews with The Texas Tribune, Miller called Progress Texas’ complaints “harassment,” and said “there’s nothing absolutely illegal or wrong with either of those trips."
In March, the Houston Chronicle first reported Miller's trip to Oklahoma to obtain a so-called "Jesus Shot," which some believe cures all pain for life. Miller said he made the trip so he could tour the Oklahoma National Stockyards and meet with Oklahoma officials. But those officials told the Chronicle they had no plans to meet with Miller that day. Internal emails from the Agriculture Department later indicated that Miller had planned the trip around receiving the shot. After details about the trip became public, Miller vowed to repay the state for the trip out of an "abundance of caution."
Miller also traveled to Mississippi in February on the state's dime. There, the world champion calf roper participated in the National Dixie Rodeo. When asked about that trip, the Agriculture Department gave contradictory reports to media outlets.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Miller took the state-paid trip to Mississippi to participate in the National Dixie Rodeo but later repaid the state with campaign and personal funds. He told the Chronicle that the intent of the trip was to meet with agriculture officials there, making it a legitimate state-covered business trip. Miller said after those meetings fell through, he repaid the state for the trip with campaign funds because he also met with donors and advisers during that time.
In her memo, Oswalt wrote “it is clear that Commissioner Miller used campaign and state funds to pay for the two trips,” but noted that he had fully repaid the state.
“Additionally, the total amount spent on the trips was relatively small, the state has been refunded all the money it expended on these trips, and the facts have been made known publicly so that Commissioner Miller is likely to be more careful in the future," the memo said.
Read the Tribune's related coverage:
- Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said he is working with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign to help lead an agriculture team.
- Four complaints were filed against Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller in 2014 involving his campaign finance reports as a state legislator. One investigation has been closed, and Miller says he expects the other three to be dismissed.
- As Texas agriculture events go, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was a must-do for state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and his staff. But Miller had more than an industry interest. He also had a personal one.