Rick Casey jumps on the Ed Johnson bandwagon, and he starts off with the information that former District Clerk Charles Bacarisse was doing the same kind of moonlighting as Johnson was.
Bacarisse hired out as a $4,500-a-month consultant to a courier service and a company that served court papers on parents who failed to make child-support payments.
Apparently, the $135,000 a year we paid him wasn’t enough.
Bacarisse said there was nothing unethical about the arrangement, but a competing process server said she had turned down his offer (for a price) to help her by recommending her to lawyers who need those services.
He denied it, but the sense lingered that we had a district clerk who was on the take.
I have more sympathy for Ed Johnson. He has to get by on the $85,092 we taxpayers give him as associate voter registrar at the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office.
I’m sure this was public knowledge at some point, but I either never saw it or I’d forgotten it. If nothing else, you’d think that the extra money on top of the taxpayer-funded salary would be enough to frost a lot of people. I mean, $54K a year ($4,500 a month) is a pretty decent income, especially for what was surely part-time work. A similar arrangement in the private sector would likely be grounds for termination.
As 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 Dallas counties and set up a non-partisan office to handle voter registration and elections.
Chapter 31 of the Texas Election Code makes it easy. Commissioners Court simply has to vote to set up a county election commission, made up of the county judge, the county clerk, the tax assessor-collector and the county chairs of the political parties.
Together, they hire an election administrator and give him or her a budget to handle voter registration and to conduct elections.
This is a bit more rational than having the tax assessor-collector do the registration, which fell to that office only because it collected the poll tax that was then considered useful in keeping irresponsible poor people from voting.
If we had that law, the moonlighting that Vasquez thinks is perfectly acceptable could send Johnson to jail for a year.
The law makes it a Class A misdemeanor for an elections administrator or any full-time staff member in a county of more than a million if he “makes a political contribution … or publicly supports or opposes a candidate for public office or a measure to be voted on at an election.”
So, Leo, don’t you think that if the Legislature says it’s a crime for a nonpartisan voter registrar to support candidates, it might be a good policy for you to prohibit it as well?
Separating out the voter registration function from the Tax Assessor’s office is an idea that’s come up before, and would be meritorious even without the politicization of the current setup. I don’t sense any movement to make it happen, however, so the next best thing is a Tax Assessor’s office that actually tries to avoid the appearance of impropriety. It’s not so much to ask, is it?