There must be a mighty big hat rack in State Rep. Ray Allen's office, because his staffers sure do wear a lot of hats.
When state Rep. Ray Allen was passing bills in the Legislature last year, he relied on government employees for help. For political work, it was campaign staff. And for his prison-lobbying business, he taps private-sector workers.
Nothing remarkable there, except that they're all the same people -- Allen's Austin-based state employees -- records and interviews show.
Allen's top aide, Scott Gilmore, has even continued to draw a state salary while traveling outside Texas to consult and lobby -- for pay -- for the prison factory industry, Allen said.
The arrangement has drawn criticism from two government-watchdog groups, but the Grand Prairie Republican sees no problem with it. Allen said his employees are putting in more than enough time with the House of Representatives to justify their full-time salaries from taxpayers.
And he said they have almost always used private computers and phones -- even when working out of his taxpayer-provided office in the Capitol. Any use of state equipment has been incidental and unintended, he said. Records also show that Allen has periodically reimbursed the costs of private long-distance calls.
Allen acknowledged that it might be unusual to have employees assigned to three different jobs, but he said it is ethical and legal.
"It's probably more unusual for somebody to use state staff in a private industry business, but campaign work would be very common," Allen said. "The question is not, Is it wrong to do it? The question is, How do you keep it separate?"
But two watchdog groups question the multitasking use of state employees, particularly when they work at the Capitol.
"They need to get everything that is not directly related to the business of being a state representative out of the state Capitol," said Suzy Woodford, director of Common Cause of Texas. "I do not believe that you can keep everything that segmented."
Fred Lewis, director of Campaigns for People, said Allen should require a full written account of the precise hours his employees put in for the state, for the campaign and for Allen's lobby practice, known as Service House.
There's an easy answer. Pay campaign staff to do campaign work only, and tell regular staff they can't moonlight. I have sympathy for any legislative aide who says he or she can't get by on the salary they get paid, but this isn't the way to fix that problem.
Rep. Allen, by the way, is facing Katy Hubener, another one of our fine Democratic State House candidates, in November. Hubener was on our list of People To Profile For Texas Tuesdays, but we never quite connected with her, though I hear we may get a late entry for her eventually. She was recently named a Dean Dozen candidate, and I expect her to give Rep. Allen a good race this fall. Check her out, and give some thought to giving her a hand.
(Thanks to KF for the reminder on this story.)Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 31, 2004 to Scandalized! | TrackBack