By WAYNE SLATER - The Dallas Morning News - Tuesday, August 21, 2007
AUSTIN – An attorney fired from the Texas secretary of state's office for talking publicly about presidential adviser Karl Rove has filed a lawsuit, saying she is the victim of political pressure.
Elizabeth Reyes was dismissed in September 2005 after Mr. Rove called Secretary of State Roger Williams about her quotes in a newspaper story.
In the suit filed in state district court, Ms. Reyes says she was fired "because of the political embarrassment and pressure" after she answered a reporter's questions about Mr. Rove's voting eligibility in Texas.
Mr. Williams, who resigned in June to head the state Republican Party's 2008 campaign effort, said Monday that he had not seen the lawsuit.
"I don't know what it says. So I can't say anything about it," he said.
Mr. Williams has previously said that Ms. Reyes was terminated because she violated agency policy. He said she was not authorized to discuss controversial issues with the media.
In Texas, state employees can be fired at will. Her attorney claims the firing violated her constitutional right of free speech.
A Fort Worth car dealer, Mr. Williams is a major GOP fundraiser and a longtime ally of Mr. Rove and President Bush. He is thought to have political ambitions of his own, perhaps as a Republican candidate for governor in 2010.
The lawsuit seeks lost wages and unspecified punitive damages. In addition, Ms. Reyes asks that references to her termination be eliminated from her state employment file.
At issue are quotes in The Washington Post in which Ms. Reyes questioned whether two small cottages Mr. Rove owns near Kerrville qualified as a residence for purposes of registering to vote. She added that state law is fairly flexible on the issue.
Mr. Rove, who orchestrated Mr. Bush's campaigns for governor and president, sold his home in Austin after moving to Washington and claims the two cottages in Kerr County as his home for voter registration. He also owns homes in Washington and Florida.
Voter eligibility rests largely on whether a displaced Texan intends to return to the claimed residency in the future.
Ms. Reyes said that she was answering a hypothetical question, that she didn't know she was talking with a reporter, and that Mr. Rove's name never specifically came up.
Mr. Rove is known for aggressively taking on opponents and critics. And Mr. Williams has confirmed that Mr. Rove called him after the article appeared, though he has said the White House adviser did not ask that Ms. Reyes be fired.
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