Add another element to the Speaker's race mix: a request for a criminal investigation on Tom Craddick.
Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth, a vocal critic of Craddick, wrote in a letter to [Travis County DA Ronnie] Earle that an entity owned by Craddick is collecting rent from a contractor who has been paid millions of dollars for state projects.
"This type of financial arrangement -- where an elected official in a position of power is deriving income from a state contractor -- simply does not pass the smell test," Burnam wrote.
Earle said in a statement that his office is reviewing Burnam's letter and will "proceed appropriately according to the facts and the law."
Craddick spokeswoman Alexis DeLee questioned the timing of the complaint. In a statement, she said the allegations were "completely untrue and based on erroneous and irresponsible speculation."
Reliable sources tell us that the members will be notified at 5:30 that the Tuesday vote for speaker will be a roll call vote. That means that votes by Zedler and Zerwas are more important than votes by Anderson and Anchia. It also means that false impressions about the trends of the House can cause votes to switch as the vote is taking place.
The last time the House had a contested speaker vote on the floor was in 1975 pitting Carl Parker against Billy Clayton. The members submitted signed ballots in a box at the front of the hall as their name was read out during a roll call. After the ballots were cast, the results were tallied and announced and the votes were made public.
A roll call vote plays to all of the worst elements of the threats and intimidation that have been alleged in this contest.
If the leadership is interested in a clean vote and actually ascertaining the will of the House, they will follow a procedure that guarantees a clean result.
If that is not their desire, then a roll call vote is the way to go.
Fortunately, the press and the members have been assured and reassured that the incumbent has promised that next session, "things will be different," if he is re-elected.
If they do a roll call rather than a signed ballot that is tallied after everyone has voted, we know how different things will be.
And of course, the members will be informed after most press has put their weekend papers to bed.
Rep. Burnam's letter to Ronnie Earle:
January 5, 2007
The Honorable Ronnie Earle
Travis County District Attorney
509 W. 11th St.
Austin, TX 78701
District Attorney Earle:
I am writing to request that you immediately open an investigation into the business practices of the current Speaker of the Texas House, Tom Craddick. I believe he is using his public office for his own personal monetary gain.
Specifically, an entity owned by Mr. Craddick is collecting rent from a state contractor who has been paid tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for various projects in the state. This type of financial arrangement--where an elected official in a position of power is deriving income from a state contractor--simply does not pass the smell test.
To aid with your investigation, I am providing you with the following set of facts and preliminary research.
According to Mr. Craddick's most recent personal financial disclosure, he has a "beneficial interest" in an entity called "2000 Rollingwood, LTD." Mr. Craddick's disclosure form states that this entity owns 4.871 acres of land in Travis County.i
According to a form filed on September 20, 2005, with the Texas Secretary of State, "The 2000 Rollingwood, LTD partnership should be cancelled as a result of the assets being transferred to Rollingwood Mira Vista, LTD." Thus, Mr. Craddick has a "beneficial interest" in Rollingwood Mira Vista, LTD. (Daniel Herd, a general partner in Live Oak Development, Inc., was the signatory to this document.ii)
According to the Travis Central Appraisal District, "Rollingwood Mira Vista Ltd" owns a $20+ million commercial building located at 2705 Bee Caves Road in Austin, Texas (LOT 3 BLK A DELLANA ROLLINGWOOD COMMERIAL SUBD). The mailing address for Rollingwood Mira Vista is "c/o Live Oak Development Inc., 2630 Exposition Blvd., Suite 203, Austin, Texas, 8703-
1763".iii This paper trail proves that Mr. Craddick has a "beneficial interest" in the aforementioned commercial building located at 2705 Bee Caves.
What makes Mr. Craddick's "beneficial interest" in this particular commercial building corrupt at best--illegal at worst--is the fact that the entire top floor of the building is being rented by a state contractor to whom the State of Texas has paid tens of millions of dollars. In his current position as Speaker of the Texas House, Mr. Craddick has a unique ability to exert undue influence on state contracts. The income Mr. Craddick derives from a state contractor should immediately be stopped.
According to a press release available on the website of Carter and Burgess, "Carter & Burgess recently signed a seven-year lease agreement with Live Oak Development to be the lead tenant in its planned $22 million, 125,000-sq.-ft. office development at 2705 Bee Caves Rd. in Rollingwood. Upon completion in February 2002, the full-service, architectural/engineering/construction management firm will occupy 60,600 square feet of the facility, including the top floor, part of the second and one office on the first floor, which will accommodate its field survey department."iv
According to the Comptroller of Public Accounts, the State of Texas, mostly through the Texas Department of Transportation, paid Carter and Burgess more than $23,000,000 in 2006, while Mr. Craddick was Speaker of the Texas House. While Carter and Burgess has been putting tens of millions of state tax dollars in one pocket, they've been paying an entity owned by the Speaker of the House rent out of their other pocket. The Speaker of the Texas House simply cannot be allowed to continue lining his pockets with rental income from a state contractor.v
Of the millions of square feet of office space available in Austin, Texas, it is simply unreasonable to assume that a multi-million dollar state contractor coincidently chose to office in a building that just happened to be owned by an extremely powerful elected official--an elected official who unquestionably has the power to aid in obtaining state contracts.
This is the most recent example of a long and disturbing pattern of corrupt and unethical behavior by Mr. Craddick. I know your file on Mr. Craddick is extremely robust from your investigation (and subsequent indictments) of Tom DeLay, TAB and TRMPAC. However, using an elected office for your own personal gain is perhaps an even more egregious violation of the public trust.
I hope you will immediately open an investigation into these business dealings of Mr. Craddick. No public official in a position of power should be allowed to use their position of power to enrich their own business via a state contractor. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.
i See enclosed page from Tom Craddick's most recent personal financial disclosure formPosted by Charles Kuffner on January 05, 2007 to That's our Lege
ii See enclosed document from the Secretary of State's Office
iii Available at http://www.traviscad.org/travisdetail.php?theKey=494912
iv Available at http://www.c-b.com/news/story_news.asp?ArticleNum=277&v=5
v See enclosed document from the Comptroller of Public Accounts