The union that represents prison guards in Texas on Friday called for the chairman of the prison system’s governing board to resign for trying to get his sister-in-law selected for a spot on the nine-member board.Grits thought the business relationship looked a little hinky, but I didn't see that coming. Not only did Raggette allegedly conceal her family relationship with the board chair on her application, an earlier story by Ward mentioned that "Bell was listed by Raggette as a reference on her application form." Did anyone check her references? At first blush, I thought Lowry's call for Bell's resignation was overkill. But upon reflection, perhaps it was just premature. It really depends on what Chairman Bell said when he was called by TDCJ or the governor's office as Raggette's reference. Did he reveal the family relationship? Did he disclose that she was a long-time employee? And if TDCJ knew, why wasn't that on her public bio? If the chairman misrepresented anything to the people vetting Ms. Raggette - and I have no idea if that's the case - then that would justify calling for his resignation. At the moment, Grits doesn't feel like we've got enough information in the public realm to join Mr. Lowry in making that call. It's not inconceivable, though, my opinion could change depending on the answers to those questions.
Lance Lowry, president of the Huntsville-based Texas Correctional Employees Local of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Gov. Rick Perry — who nominated Annette Raggette to the prison board, then withdrew her name Wednesday amid the controversy — should ask for Bell’s resignation.
Lowry also asked for Travis County prosecutors to investigate whether any state laws were broken — whether nepotism laws cover board appointments and whether Raggette may have falsified a government document when she answered a question on the application form, and specified she was not related to any state official.
Bell is married to Raggette’s sister.
The episode also raises questions about the quality of the vetting process for governor's nominees. Does any of this ever come out if this blog hadn't published a three-sentence post last Thursday before the Monday hearing about the business relationship and emailed it to members of the Nominations Committee, encouraging them to ask further questions? The information came up on the first page of a Google search on her name, for heaven's sake. How much vetting could really have been done? By TDCJ? By the governor's staff? By committee members' offices? The whole, tawdry near-miss deserves fuller investigation by either the Nominations Committee or perhaps the House or Senate Committees charged with TDCJ oversight. Either the family and business relationships should have been caught sooner or perhaps people knew and let it go with a wink.
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