October 12, 2008
Endorsement watch: County Attorney

The Chron gets back on track after yesterday's oddity by making the right call in the County Attorney race.

In the past year Harris County has suffered through a disturbing series of public ethics scandals that resulted in the resignation of District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal and a civil rights lawsuit against sheriff's deputies in the Ibarra case that is costing the county millions of dollars in legal fees.

The county badly needs an independent county attorney who will do more than be a loyal legal adviser to Commissioners Court and other elected officials. The holder of that office must also be an advocate for the citizenry and a watchdog who can detect and defuse situations before they deteriorate into legal train wrecks.

The Chronicle believes that long-promised but never-delivered ethical reform at the county would best be served by a county attorney committed to rocking the boat as well as representing it. In the current race, the person best positioned by experience and determination to accomplish that goal is former Assistant County Attorney and Houston City Councilman Vince Ryan.

"Your paper has said it, I agree with it, the system of checks and balances at the county has broken down," says Ryan. On ethical issues, he believes "the key official should be the county attorney. When it gets to be the district attorney's business, it's gone way too far. It's time for somebody to be in office whom the contractors, developers, architects and engineers don't want."

Ryan is a Vietnam veteran and a retired lieutenant colonel is the U.S. Army reserve. He served as first assistant under former County Attorney Mike Driscoll and three terms as District C councilman. In that capacity he chaired the city's campaign finance reform committee, experience that will no doubt serve him well in a county structure that has had more than its share of allegations of campaign fund misuse.

I'm happy to say not just that I called this right, but that I got it for the right reason. The County Attorney played an overlooked and under-appreciated role in the scandals that the District Attorney and Sheriff's offices got themselves tied up in. Mostly that was by not doing anything to put a stop to them before they got out of hand, but there were some sins of commission by the County Attorney also. If you've found yourself wondering where the grownups are in county government, here's your chance to make sure we have one in a role where that's needed.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 12, 2008 to Election 2008
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