Funding for state’s Public Integrity Unit disappeared last week with a wave of Gov. Rick Perry’s hand. Now, some say the only way the unit can survive is if Travis County picks up the $3.5 million yearly tab.
Perry used a line-item veto to kill funding for the unit, housed in Travis County and the prime investigator of corruption by public officials and fraud. State funding for the unit will cease August 31 and not be renewed for at least another two years.
The unit’s jurisdiction is statewide, meaning it has the authority to investigate certain cases in other counties. More than half of its pending cases, 280 out of 400, have a Travis County connection. It currently has 34 employees.
Travis County commissioners heard testimony from the unit’s leadership Monday but did not decide on whether to fund the unit. Commissioners said they would meet in two weeks to take action.
“It’s a financial surprise to all of the taxpayers that have to foot the bill,” said Travis County Commissioner Ron Davis.
Davis said since the unit investigates corruption cases across the entire state, he wants to look for a way to cost-share funding the unit with other counties.
By issuing his veto, Perry made true on his promise to cut funding for the unit if Rosemary Lehmberg, the embattled Travis County district attorney, did not resign from her post. Republican lawmakers have hammered Lehmberg, a democrat, for being convicted of a DWI in April and insist she resign.
If she resigns, Perry will appoint her replacement. Lehmberg has said although she will not resign, she will not seek reelection and seek professional help.
Lehmberg made her first public appearance since her DWI conviction at the meeting and upheld the unit’s role to investigate corruption in Texas.
“The work remains. The governor’s veto does not affect responsibility,” Lehmberg said.