The Texas Ethics Commission issues final order on Harris County Dept of Education Trustee, Eric Dick

“It’s like a nightmare isn’t it? It just keeps getting worse and worse. Doesn’t it?” –The Color of Money

The Final Order from the Texas Ethics Commission can be found here.

After the 2019 Houston City Council elections I filed an ethics complaint against City Council candidate Eric Dick. My complaint was fairly simple. He failed to put a “Political ad paid for by….” disclaimer on a mail piece he sent out and he failed to identify who he was paying money to. Usually a complaint like this will end in a settlement with a small fine and with no admission of guilt along with a promise to not do it again. According to the final order issued by the Texas Ethics Commission I couldn’t have been more wrong….

The mailer in question looked as if prominent Black elected officials had endorsed a slate of candidates, including Dick. It was created by the Harris County Black Democratic News an organization that was also caught up in this scheme and eventually fined $6000. Unfortunately it is not against the law to publish a deceiving endorsement so that issue was not considered by the Ethics Commission.

The Final Order:

So after a couple of years of investigation and a preliminary and formal hearing, Dick was fined $30,000 and was referred to the State Bar. (Dick is an attorney) This fine was the 2nd highest fine accessed by the Commission, second to the fine of $75,000 against Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole. The Final Order sheds more light on the entire process and went far beyond what I had expected. From the order:

  • The TEC offered to settle for $10,000. Dick offered to settle the complaint for $2500 with no admission of guilt. The TEC countered with a fine of $5000. A day later the printer of the mailer responded to a subpoena with data that made the TEC staff rescind the offer. Dick should have accepted the offer.
  • Dick had claimed, under oath, that he had nothing to do with the mailer, yet the data provided by the printer showed that he paid over $20,000 for over 100,000 mailers and was directing the printer on every aspect of the job.
  • The TEC sent a list of questions to Dick. His lawyer, Chris Carmona, offered to provide the answers at a cost of $900.
  • Dick finally responded to the request and provided a document dump of over 11,000 pages. 
  • After claiming his reports were accurate concerning payments of over $125,000 to PFS, the Famous Group, WS Services, and Blaze Campaign Consulting he changed his statement saying he had actually never paid anyone for any services. The original complaint claimed these entities did not exist and the addresses listed on the ethics report were storage facilities. The TEC agreed.
  • Subpoenas were issued to the printer owner, Dick, and the owner of Harris County Democratic News. Neither showed to the hearing.
  • Carmona claimed that Dick was under a “protective order” issued by Harris County Civil Court at Law No 1 and could not attend the formal hearing but that order had been withdrawn once the Judge learned Dick was under a subpoena. (Can this get any more weird?)
  • The data provided by the printer clearly shows Dick paid for the mailers, which he denied.
I seriously thought this was going to end like most complaints I have filed, a slap on the wrist, a small fine, and an agreement to not do it again. Thanks to the efforts by the Texas Ethics Commission staff this resulted in a serious fine as well as a referral to the State Bar for disciplinary action. 
I get the feeling this nightmare isn’t over.

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