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 help his sister-in-law get a spot on the nine-member board.
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 might have falsified a government document when she answered a question on the application form and specified that she was not related to any state official.
Bell is married to Raggette’s sister. He has not returned calls for comment.
Lowry said Bell “betrayed public trust by allowing his sister-in-law … to be nominated to serve on the Texas Board of Criminal Justice.”
“This is clearly a major conflict of interest and violates state criminal nepotism laws,” he said.
The prison board is one of the more powerful in the state, overseeing the nation’s largest prison system and a two-year budget of more than $6 billion.
While the prison union’s membership is a small fraction of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s 40,000 employees, Lowry’s call is significant because it echoes growing sentiments within the agency, since the story of Raggette’s nomination surfaced Monday, that Bell should step down.
In a related development, Perry nominated Mission attorney Thomas Wingate — a former judge and school board president — to join the criminal justice board, in place of Raggette. If confirmed, Wingate would replace Lubbock attorney and businessman David Nelson, whose term ended.
Contending that the board is “lacking in experienced members who have worked or researched criminal justice issues,” Lowry said Perry should nominate someone with criminal justice experience.