A frequent reader to my blog pointed me to an interesting issue about the ongoing public feud between Veronica Escobar and William Hanson. They pointed me to the Texas Public Administration Statue and the abuse of official capacity Texas statues. Of particular interest to me is the Texas statue related to the coercion of a public servant. As I understand it, Texas Penal Code 36.03(a)(1) makes it a criminal offense to influence a public official through coercion.
As many of you know, Rick Perry was indicted on two counts in August of this year. The two counts are “Coercion of a Public Servant” and “Abuse of Official Capacity.” Both counts in the indictment stem from Perry’s veto of $7.5 million in appropriations to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. The case is still making its way through the court system.
In Perry’s case, the allegation of coercion of a public servant is based on Perry’s comments calling for the resignation of the Travis County District Attorney because of her driving while under the influence case. Now let us take a look again at William Hanson’s December 6, 2014 letter to Veronica Escobar.
First, Hanson is writing in response to Veronica Escobar’s December 5, 2014 letter demanding that Hanson and Ponce resign from the University Medical Center board. Escobar, in her letter, does not point out any instance of malfeasance by either Hanson or Ponce. Instead, Escobar wrote that she is demanding their resignations because he had “suggested” that Escobar was trying to “intimidate” Hanson “into bending” to her will. Escobar goes on to write in her letter that she, and Vince Perez have already agreed that they “will not be nominating” them for reappointment when their terms are up. She then adds, “Until there is UMC board leadership truly willing to work with Commissioners Court, it will be very difficult to move forward.”
In the response letter, Hanson writes that Veronica Escobar’s “kind of behind the scenes political intrigue and intimidation” have harmed UMC. Clearly, there is some type of intimidation going on here. As a layperson, it seems to me that Hanson and Ponce have been operating in their official capacity as officials of UMC when dealing with Commissioner’s Court. Veronica Escobar did not make any allegation of malfeasance by either board member when calling for their resignations.
As a matter of fact, Veronica Escobar used her official capacity to demand the resignations of both members and in addition told them that she, and another county commissioner, Vince Perez have agreed that they will not be reappointing both to the board. As far as I am concerned, Escobar’s letter clearly shows an “intentional” intent to “deny” or “impede” the performance of the duties of Hanson and Ponce.