AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP)– A Texas judge says he plans to have a special prosecutor review allegations that Governor Rick Perry abused the powers of his office and broke the law over a veto that cut funding for state public corruption investigators.
Judge Robert Richardson told a newspaper in the state’s capitol that he expects to name a special prosecutor as early as next week to look at the complaint filed by a watchdog group, Texans for Public Justice.
Perry’s office on Thursday denied wrongdoing.
The complaint stems from the April drunken-driving arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose office houses the Public Integrity Unit that is the state’s criminal ethics arm. Its high-profile cases include the 2010 prosecution of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and an ongoing investigation into the state’s $3 billion cancer research agency.
Lehmberg pleaded guilty after her arrest and served half of a 45-day jail sentence. But she refused calls from Republicans to resign, including from Perry, who publicly said he would eliminate $3.7 million in annual state funding if she did not step down.
Lehmberg stayed in office, and Perry vetoed the money in June.
In a two-page complaint filed shortly after Perry’s veto, the head of Texans for Public Justice accused Perry of possibly violating laws regarding coercion of a public servant, bribery, abuse of official capacity and official oppression.
“Governor Perry violated the Texas Penal Code by communicating offers and threats under which he would exercise his official discretion to veto the appropriation,” wrote Craig McDonald, the group’s executive director, in the June 26 complaint.