Wednesday, October 13, 2010

State ethics board fines two office-seekers from Tarrant County

Jan 06, 2010 (Fort Worth Star-Telegram - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A STATE AGENCY HAS CRACKED -- or at least gently flung -- the ethics whip at a State Board of Education member representing part of Tarrant County and a Republican running for a state House seat in south Arlington.

The Texas Ethics Commission fined both late last month a modest $500 -- combined -- for failing to follow such basics as correct math and "What is your name?" The names of those who filed the complaints are confidential under state law, commission officials said.

Patricia Hardy, who represents Tarrant, Ellis, Johnson and Parker counties on the education board, has a master's degree in secondary education. So what's up with her adding skills? She was accused of filing a pre-election report in March 2008 that said she had $1,052.58 in political contributions maintained, according to a commission documents. After some pencil sharpening, Hardy agreed with a complaint that she really had $2,885.71 and filed a corrected report.

Second allegation: Her July 2008 semiannual report listed $8,518.07 in political contributions maintained. But that was wrong, too. She actually had $4,808.45.

According to the commission documents: In November 2008 she listed $5,018.07 in political contributions maintained; real total: $4,808.45.

The same month, she reported $5,118.07 in the coffers; real total: $4,908.

In January 2009, she reported $5,018.07; real total: still $4,908.

"You could say 'sloppy account,' but, hell's bells, everybody else has somebody else do their work for them," Hardy said. "I'm doing it myself at my office in my house, where I have 500,000 other things going on, too." In addition to her work on the board, Hardy works for the Weatherford school district.

"What's funny about this is that no one is more straight-laced as I am and as conservative," she said.

Hardy said the complaints were nit-picky. Aside from a $400 fine "because I had mathematical errors" she also had to hire an attorney, she said.

Also receiving a mild wrist slap was former state Rep. Bill Zedler, who is running against former Mansfield school board President Joy Keller for the Republican nomination for the District 96 seat. The winner will face Democrat Rep. Chris Turner.

Zedler was fined $100 after he sent out mailers that said they were political advertisements "paid for by Friends of Bill Zedler." The problem? Officially, there is no "Friends of Bill Zedler." Zedler's campaign paid for the mailers, not a "Friends of" political action committee.

"The disclosure statements that appeared on...[the] political advertising indicated that the communications were political advertising, but failed to identify...[Zedler] as the person who paid for the political advertising. Instead the disclosure statements...implicitly suggested that the communications emanated from persons other than" Zedler, commission documents stated.

Zedler's attorney, Trey Trainor of Austin, said the forms candidates file to establish a treasurer don't include a place to name the campaign.

"Are you going to call it the 'Bill Jones for State House Committee,' or are you going to call it 'Friends of Bill Jones?'aEURe" Trainor asked. "It's obvious that a yard sign that says 'Vote for Bill Zedler' probably was paid for by Bill Zedler. ...I think the commission recognized that and said 'No harm, no foul;' it's $100 and we'll do away with this."

DARREN BARBEE, 817-390-7126 Read more in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram,

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