The Texas Attorney General’s office is reviewing a complaint that offering rental rebates for voting in the Kerrville City Council election constituted bribery under state law.
Office of the Attorney General spokeswoman Kayleigh Lovvorn confirmed Thursday that the complaint had been received and is in the review process. Bribing a voter is a second-degree felony in Texas, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Mayor Bonnie White, who is running for re-election, said the complaint was filed by the daughter of a resident at The Meadows Apartments, a senior adult apartment complex at which the rebate offer was made before being rescinded last week.
“She wanted to know how to file a complaint, so I contacted the district attorney for her,” White said.
216th District Attorney Lucy Wilke then referred the case to the Attorney General’s office because of a lack of investigative staff and conflict of interests.
She said referring the complaint was not based its merits.
“I am not familiar with the complete facts of the allegations, so I have no opinion as to the merit — or lack of merit — of the allegations,” she said.
In Kerr County, the district attorneys do not investigate allegations of criminal conduct, Wilke said.
“We prosecute cases which have already been investigated by a law enforcement agency,” she said.
Wilke said her conflict of interest is “knowing all of the parties possibly involved, on both sides, very well.”
Any action on the complaint will probably come well after the May 5 election, Wilke said. The Attorney General’s office has a backlog of cases and will not be able to evaluate the allegations soon.
Lovvorn did not respond to a question about what impact, if any, a prosecution and conviction might have on the election.
Steve Schulte, general counsel for MacDonald Companies — an umbrella entity for the limited partnership that owns and operates The Meadows — said they “have not received official notification from anybody regarding a complaint, nor have we seen any complaint.”
When asked for comment, Schulte said, “We have already addressed this issue in The (Kerrville) Daily Times and other forums. We do not believe that it deserves further comment.”
Bill Blackburn, who is challenging White for mayor, said he had not seen the complaint and had no comment.
The offer in question began in March when newsletters were sent to residents of The Meadows Apartments, 2300 Junction Highway, inviting them to a “meet and greet” event with Blackburn and city council candidates Judy Eychner and Delayne Sigerman.
Next to the announcement was an invitation to community members to bring in a “physical representation” of an “I Voted” sticker in order to receive a $20 rebate on a future month’s rent.
The rent rebate was also mentioned in The Meadows’ April newsletter. In neither instance was there mention of supporting a particular candidate, nor was it required that residents state for whom they voted.
The Texas Secretary of State’s office frowns on such offers.
“Our office strongly discourages offering any kind of financial benefit for voting, as it may constitute a violation of the Texas Penal Code on bribery,” said Secretary of State Communications Director Sam Taylor.