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Texas School Board members possibly misusing TEA website

Profile page for Rick Agosto
Profile page for Rick Agosto

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) website, http://www.tea.state.tx.us/, displays a profile page for each member of the Texas State Board of Education. The profile pages of three Republican members, Barbara Cargill, Terri Leo, and Geraldine "Tincy" Miller contain prominent links to their campaign websites. 

Section § 255.003 of the Texas Election Code clearly states:
UNLAWFUL USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS FOR POLITICAL
ADVERTISING.  (a) An officer or employee of a political subdivision
may not spend or authorize the spending of public funds for
political advertising.
(b)  This section does not apply to a communication that
factually describes the purposes of a measure if the communication
does not advocate passage or defeat of the measure.
(c)  A person who violates this section commits an offense. 
An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1,
1987.

The Texas Education Agency website is publicly funded, meaning broadcasting a campaign website's URL prominently across it could constitute "spending public funds for political advertising."

Democrat Rick Agosto's profile also contains a link to a personal website, though his is largely informational and uses no direct campaign language, makes mention of no endorsements, or asks for a call to action for donations, volunteering, etc.

Also of note is Republican Cynthia Dunbar's reference to a personal email address, cynthia@cynthiadunbar.com. Clearly contained in this email address is her personal website, which she makes mere mention of her status as a representative of the Texas State Board of Education. Her website is used primarily to publicize her book, a hyper-partisan tome about "how the left is trying to erase what made us great" along with a self-proclaimed four-point strategy to help "Conservatives throughout the States can begin to restore true hope."

This would seem to conflict with section § 39.02 of the Texas Penal Code, dealing with obtaining a personal benefit from using government equipment:
ABUSE OF OFFICIAL CAPACITY. (a) A public servant commits an offense if, with intent to obtain a benefit or with intent to harm or defraud another, he intentionally or knowingly:
(1) violates a law relating to the public servant's office or employment; or
(2) misuses government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant's custody or possession by virtue of the public servant's office or employment.
(b) An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a Class A misdemeanor.
(c) An offense under Subsection (a)(2) is:
(1) a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is less than $20;
(2) a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is $20 or more but less than $500 ;
(3) a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is $500 or more but less than $1,500;
(4) a state jail felony if the value of the use of the thing misused is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000;
(5) a felony of the third degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000;
(6) a felony of the second degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000; or
(7) a felony of the first degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $200,000 or more.
(d) A discount or award given for travel, such as frequent flyer miles, rental car or hotel discounts, or food coupons, are not things of value belonging to the government for purposes of this section due to the administrative difficulty and cost involved in recapturing the discount or award for a governmental entity.

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 3241, ch. 558, § 7, eff. Sept. 1, 1983. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Penal Code § 39.01 and amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, § 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

Update 01/08/2010: The links and references to personal and campaign websites appear to have been removed.

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