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Rep. Mike Lang Tackles Corruption

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Imagine getting a speeding ticket, talking to the county attorney, and being told a cash donation to the county could get the citation dismissed. No court date, no defensive driving, no points on your record, no increase in your insurance. Most people would probably take the deal.

This appears to be a real scenario that has played out regularly in Brown County over the last decade – at least that’s the allegation that has spawned a federal investigation.

Scripture says to “abstain from all appearance of evil.” And while many people in Brown County, Texas might be good Christian folk, the actions of their county government are raising serious ethical questions.

Current state law allows certain county attorneys and commissioners to accept “donations,” ostensibly to offset the cost of government without raising taxes. It’s easy to see how this system of donations could be perverted.

When the former assistant county attorney lobbied the state legislature on behalf of this law, he recognized that such mutual back-scratching between the county and defendants would “constitute the second degree felony of bribery.”

Late last year, the Texas Observer reported that since 2008, hundreds of defendants in Brown County have paid $250,000 in “donations” to the County Attorney’s office, and soon thereafter their cases were dropped.

So whether the county attorney is guilty of corruption or not, the appearance of impropriety will never be dispelled as long as the law stays on the books.

Brown County is ready for this situation to be resolved, so local officials called their new conservative state Representative, Mike Lang for help.

Rep. Lang, a former constable, has filed HB 2273 in an effort to abolish the donation program completely. The bill is being supported by the Justice of the Peace and Constables Association.

Lang’s bill abolishes the program in each of the five other counties that are authorized to accept donations: Aransas, Colorado, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Lavaca.

Lang told us he is not aware of any alleged corruption in any other county, but that he simply wants to “remove the temptation.”

In an intriguing twist, the Brownwood Bulletin is reporting that the County Attorney under investigation has endorsed Lang’s effort.

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