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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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District Attorney drops charges against Dukes
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 by Jo Clifton
Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore dismissed both felony and misdemeanor charges against Austin Rep. Dawnna Dukes on Monday, after Dukes made restitution to the State of Texas for $1,340 in salary paid to Dukes’ legislative staffer “to reimburse that staffer for transporting” Dukes’ daughter, according to a statement from Moore. Dukes also paid a $500 fine to the Texas Ethics Commission and “restored $5230.74 to her campaign account for her conversion of campaign funds to personal use,” according to Moore’s statement. Judge Brad Urrutia signed the dismissals, so the legal matter is done. In January, Dukes was indicted by a Travis County grand jury on 13 counts of felonious tampering with a governmental record. She was accused of providing false information on vouchers she presented to the House Business Office for traveling to the Capitol to conduct legislative business. Evidence gathered by the Texas Rangers Public Integrity Unit and the State Auditor’s Office showed that Dukes did not travel to the Capitol on a number of days that she claimed she had. After the indictment, prosecutors learned that the House Business Office “did not enforce the House rule requiring travel to the Capitol, and because of the lack of House policies regarding the type of activities that would qualify as legislative business, we cannot demonstrate that Rep. Dukes received the payments because of her false statements,” Moore’s statement said. Moore concluded that statutes related to tampering are “critically important to ensure the public’s confidence in governmental records, particularly those that result in the expenditure of taxpayer dollars. It is disappointing when the enforcement of these statutes is thwarted. However, it is the prosecutor’s role to see that justice is done, and I am satisfied that we have discharged our duties to the best of our ability given the facts as we have found them.”
Dukes wrote on Facebook last night, “I’m very much looking forward to interim committee assignments and my reelection in March with you(r) continued support.”
One of Dukes’ opponents in the Democratic primary next March, Chito Vela, released the following statement: “Although the criminal allegations against Rep. Dukes apparently could not be proven, it’s important to remember what is undisputed. Her absence at the legislature is, quite literally, a matter of written record. All of us in House District 46 effectively lost our representation in the Texas Legislature for the last two sessions. We have been abandoned by Rep. Dukes, who did not show up to do the job she was elected to do.”
Another opponent, former Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole also released a statement, “Throughout all the changes, from the incumbent and the prosecutors, my position has been constant: I’m all in for the Democratic Primary for House District 46. In a Trump era with the voices of intolerance emboldened, voters deserve a chance to determine for themselves how best to stand up for our community and our values. As I said from the start, ‘you got to represent.’ That’s what our campaign is about and that’s the choice we’ll present to Democrats this primary. That’s why I am continuing my campaign in the community, talking to voters about the issues that matter to them.”
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