Coun­cil stance on im­mi­gra­tion in­spires men to file claims

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Marty Toohey

Six Hous­ton-area men have filed cam­paign-fi­nance com­plaints against Austin City Coun­cil mem­bers as ret­ri­bu­tion for the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to end Austin’s busi­ness re­la­tions with Ari­zona in the wake of that state’s new im­mi­gra­tion-en­force­ment law.

Jim Doyle, a 67-year-old res­i­dent of Con­roe with tea party ties, said he filed the com­plaints in the past few weeks be­cause the City Coun­cil “pretty stupidly in­volved an en­tire city in a fight with an­other state” over a law he con­sid­ers sen­si­ble.

That law, which Pres­i­dent Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion con-

tends is un­con­sti­tu­tional, re­quires lo­cal and state law en­force­ment of­fi­cers in Ari­zona to try to de­ter­mine whether peo­ple are in the U.S. legally if there is a “rea­son­able sus­pi­cion” they might not be.

“It’s per­fectly rea­son­able to do ev­ery­thing at your fin­ger­tips to go af­ter politi­cians who do some­thing they shouldn’t,” Doyle said.

Coun­cil mem­bers reached for com­ment Fri­day gen­er­ally de­nied cam­paign-fi­nance wrong­do­ing, say­ing a few of the nu­mer­ous al­le­ga­tions may prove to be tech­ni­cally cor­rect but lack sub­stance.

“This is mi­nor-league ha­rass­ment, but we’ll re­spond and make sure we cor­rect any vi­o­la­tions,” said Coun­cil Mem­ber Bill Spel­man, who along with Mayor Lee Leff­in­g­well and Coun­cil Mem­ber Mike Martinez co-spon­sored the res­o­lu­tion to cut the city’s busi­ness ties with Ari­zona.

The com­plaints, which have been filed against all seven coun­cil mem­bers, stem from the in­for­ma­tion they listed on cam­paign-fi­nance forms re­quired by the Texas Ethics Com­mis­sion.

The al­le­ga­tions range from il­le­gally ac­cept­ing con­tri­bu­tions from cor­po­ra­tions to, in one case against Spel­man, fail­ing to prop­erly iden­tify a con­trib­u­tor, Karl-Thomas Mus­sel­man, be­cause the cam­paign listed him as K.T. Mus­sel­man.

Coun­cil Mem­ber Randi Shade said the al­le­ga­tions “turned out to be nit­picky and base­less” and, in a re­sponse to the ethics com­mis­sion, she de­nied al­most all of the charges.

For in­stance, she said, dur­ing her first year in of­fice she did not know she had to file a cam­paign-fi­nance form in Jan­uary — eight months af­ter tak­ing of­fice — be­cause she had long since stopped rais­ing money.

She said she was not in­formed of the re­quire­ment un­til af­ter the dead­line had passed and wound up fil­ing the form two days late. She said the other al­le­ga­tions were false.

“It’s a frus­trat­ing draw on my time,” Shade said, “but it’s part of the job.”

Coun­cil Mem­ber Laura Mor­ri­son, who won of­fice in the same elec­tion as Shade, also missed the Jan­uary fil­ing, and said only one other al­le­ga­tion, in­volv­ing how to doc­u­ment a re­im­burse­ment, proved true.

“I am fully re­spect­ful of my need to be fully trans­par­ent and ac­count­able for my cam­paign fi­nances,” Mor­ri­son said. “It doesn’t mat­ter what the mo­ti­va­tions were” of the peo­ple fil­ing the re­ports.

Doyle said he and a few friends around The Wood­lands be­gan look­ing into coun­cil mem­bers’ cam­paign-fi­nance re­ports shortly af­ter the coun­cil voted to end all city con­tracts with Ari­zona com­pa­nies and limit travel there.

Martinez said he wanted to pre­vent city em­ploy­ees from vis­it­ing a po­ten­tially hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment where they might be stopped and ques­tioned about their cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus.

Doyle said that phi­los­o­phy is at odds with his po­lit­i­cal sen­si­bil­i­ties. He said he re­cently joined the tea party move­ment be­cause he con­sid­ers the fed­eral govern­ment too lib­eral.

Doyle said he filed a sim­i­lar ethics com­plaint a few years ago against a mem­ber of the Con­roe City Coun­cil whom he con­sid­ered too ea­ger to spend pub­lic money. He said that coun­cil mem­ber was slapped with a $1,400 fine.

Doyle said he has also re­cently filed ethics com­plaints against Demo­cratic state Rep. Ruth McClen­don of San An­to­nio and state Rep. Chuck Hop­son of Jack­sonville, who switched to the Repub­li­can Party last year.

Those two are part of a Leg­is­la­ture that, along with Gov. Rick Perry, has shown lit­tle in­cli­na­tion to pass the kind of im­mi­gra­tion law passed by Ari­zona.

Doyle said Perry has dif­fer­ent mo­ti­va­tions than the Austin City Coun­cil — po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion ver­sus what he sees as ide­ol­ogy — but said both are un­ac­cept­able to him.

“I haven’t con­sid­ered fil­ing against the gover­nor,” Doyle said. “But I might.”

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