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Leo’s response

Here, for the record, is Harris County Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez’s response to the Ed Johnson business. Basically, he denies everything, admits to nothing, and makes counter-accusations, certainly a time-honored technique when under attack. I’ll stipulate that the charges against Ed Johnson are being made by partisan groups. I find it rather admirable that Vasquez is so willing to go to bat for an employee like this. But man, if he can’t or won’t see how much this looks like a conflict of interest, I don’t know what to say. The voters will sort it out next year, I guess. I think Campos is right that swing voters will see this for what it is. I just hope the resources to make sure they’re aware of it are there.

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  1. Myopinion says:

    The voters will make the decision for him, but as a public sector employee, where I work, conflicts of interest are prohibited, any after hours employment or leadership in organizations etc has to be ok’d, and this is for much lower level employees than the situation in Leo Vasquez’s office. Seems he should ask this person to choose one or the other.

  2. This may be more than the “appearance of conflict of interest”. It may be a “tell” of consequential incompetence and worse “bad actors” at the Courthouse than Ed Johnson ever struck me as. There should be serious forensic examination of the situation that has recently come to light. If the federal lawsuit is “frivolous”, then what does the County or, now that another election is underway, the City of Houston have to offer by way of an alternative that is not just arrogance or flimsy excuses?

    For one thing, the conflict was concealed not just by Ed, but by a slew of other Courthouse officials who knew of this over the course of the previous election cycle and legislative session but said nothing. Such a conflict may or may not be allowable under Texas statutes. But, election officials or legislators concealing it from others — along party or administrative lines — is not ethical or, perhaps, not legal under well established principles of administrative law.

    Second, Ed Johnson has highly privileged access to government databases with personal identity information protected by law. Now that there clearly has been an ethical breach, and that the Tax Assessor-Collector concedes the possibility of “bad actors” in his office, the burden of proof is on Commissioners’ Court, acting as the Central Counting Station Authority of Harris County, to show that those privileges were not misused and that information was not stolen and cannot be misused for political advantage or plain, old commercial exploitation and outright theft.

    Third, if anything, Republicans — libertarian, anti-government, over-taxed or under-employed — should be even more alarmed than Democrats at the secret “surveillance state” the Tax Office and the Secretary of State have built behind a wall of “ministerial, proprietary, and homeland security” secrecy. As with direct-recording electronic voting machines, the design, implementation, and operation of what still has old-fangled names like “voter file” or “voter roll” is actually an unreliable, insecure, over-budget, doubiously constituitonal, and dangerous public/prifate facilities that are vaguely federal/state/local or … whatever. These lend themselves to official oppression, insider fraud and outsider theft.

    So, what if Democrats sweep the Courthouse and turn the secretively partisan election machinery against the GOP? Surely, Republicans are not so stupid they cannot see the possbility, even the likelyhood, of that.

    Here’s the problem: One-party election machinery changing hands from D to R and back to D is not really progress by any measure at all.

    So, here’s what we need:

    — Every citizen’s data should be equally secure from insider or outsider theft or abuse.

    — Both parties should have equal access to public databases for legitimate and responsible use.

    — And, both City and County government should employ reputable professional and patriotic oversight bodies that give all parties, candidates, and voters both confidence and pride in our elections.

    This is not Iran.

  3. […] the Texas Democratic Party’s response, written by the TDP’s legal counsel Chad Dunn, to Leo Vasquez in the matter of Ed Johnson. Johnson’s conflict of interest doesn’t pass the smell test, and […]

  4. […] for Johnson, Casey makes the someday-the-other-team-will-be-in-charge counter to Vasquez’s defense of Johnson, then notes that Harris County isn’t like the other counties. Let’s do like Bexar and […]