Free Babysitting, Charity Work: What a Legislative Aide’s Saying About a Former Boss

The Travis County District Attorney is investigating state Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ use of staff time, including having staffers raise money for charity and babysit her child in exchange for free rent.  

By Rhonda FanningApril 20, 2016 11:48 am

The Travis County District Attorney’s office is often considered a thorn in the side of Republican lawmakers – accused of politically-motivated investigations and prosecutions of GOP lawmakers because Travis County is one of the few real Democratic strongholds in the state.

But it might be tough for Republicans to make a case that partisanship is a factor in the DA’s newest investigation of a Texas lawmaker. Travis County district attorney’s office has opened a criminal investigation of veteran Democrat state Rep. Dawnna Dukes.

Sean Collins Walsh, who’s covering the story for the Austin American-Statesman, says Dukes, in her 11th term, has allegedly directed her legislative staff to work on a non-profit and run personal errands.

Walsh says the first allegation centers on claims that her staff helped raise money for Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, through Dukes’s annual charity event called the African-American Community Heritage Festival, which she founded 17 years ago.

“Dawnna says that this is perfectly okay because it benefits her constituents… others says it’s using government resources for a non-government purpose,” she says. “And that’s the nature of the investigation.”

The tip came from an email released by a staff member who later left Dukes’s office. Complaints that staffer and other former Dukes staffers filed eventually reached the state auditor’s office.

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How this case pushes the limit of a long-time question in the Texas Lege about what is acceptable use of legislative staff members’ time

– What kinds of personal errands staffers say they were asked to do for Dukes

– What Dukes says about the allegations