breaking news

Students call for stricter gun laws at Southwest Austin middle school during walkout

Sources: Prosecutors investigating state Rep. Dawnna Dukes


The Travis County district attorney’s office has opened a criminal investigation into state Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ use of legislative staff for nongovernmental purposes, the American-Statesman has learned.

Dukes, an Austin Democrat, has been criticized for directing state employees to raise money for an East Austin nonprofit event, the African-American Community Heritage Festival, and for having staff members do personal errands and chores for her.

The Texas Tribune in February first reported that the state auditor’s office was investigating those arrangements after former staffers of her legislative office filed complaints.

The auditor’s office recently contacted prosecutors with Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit, which has opened a criminal probe on the matter, according to two sources familiar with the investigation who spoke with the Statesman on the condition of anonymity. Prosecutors are expected to issue subpoenas to current or former Dukes staffers soon, the sources said.

The sources asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Dukes told the Statesman she was unaware of the criminal investigation and insisted that she never violated state law.

“There is nothing in the statute that prohibits a legislator or an elected official from doing any work that benefits their constituency or organizations … that serve their constituencies,” Dukes said of the 17-year-old Heritage Festival, which raises scholarship money for Huston-Tillotson University students. She helped found the event, and it is organized primarily by a former staffer of hers who works as a consultant for the nonprofit that runs it.

Questions over her use of staff time for personal errands centered on an unusual arrangement in which a Dukes staffer lived at her house.

“The woman who made the allegations lived with me for three months rent-free, not having even to pay utilities. That was, in essence, a contractual agreement, and the agreement was that she would help with the kid for no rent and not having to buy groceries,” said Dukes, with “the kid” referring to her daughter.

All of the accusations, Dukes said, were made by disgruntled former employees with “an ax to grind.”

Dukes is serving her 11th term in the Texas House, and she represents parts of East Austin, North Austin, Northeast Austin, Manor and Pflugerville. She was absent for much of the last legislative session because she was recovering from injuries sustained in a car wreck, she has said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

STUDENT WALKOUT: Students call for stricter gun laws at Southwest Austin middle school
STUDENT WALKOUT: Students call for stricter gun laws at Southwest Austin middle school

More than 100 students at Clint Small Middle School in Southwest Austin left during lunch hour Wednesday as part of a walkout calling for stricter gun laws and in support of school safety, school officials confirmed. The Austin school district did not immediately have any other information about the walkout.  The move comes amid a nationwide call...
Ten Lake Travis school board candidates line up
Ten Lake Travis school board candidates line up

Ten individuals have thrown their hat in the ring for candidacy in the May 5 Lake Travis school board election - six for full terms and four for the unfinished term of recently resigned board member Alex Alexander. Running for Place 1 are incumbent candidate Guy Clayton and resident David Lovelace. Running for Place 2, the seat being vacated by board...
FLU WATCH: Flu cases in Hays County decline for second consecutive week
FLU WATCH: Flu cases in Hays County decline for second consecutive week

Positive flu cases in Hays County dropped off for the second consecutive week in mid-February, according to county officials. Authorities said 107 positive case were reported between Feb. 14 and Feb. 20, which was down from 275 cases the week before, and 366 the week before that. No additional deaths have been reported. “Hopefully, this signals...
Arnold Schwarzenegger, ‘Black-ish’ creator Kenya Barris and more to speak at SXSW
Arnold Schwarzenegger, ‘Black-ish’ creator Kenya Barris and more to speak at SXSW

“Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris, Blumhouse Productions founder and CEO Jason Blum, “Ready Player One” author Ernest Cline, actress Dakota Fanning, “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King, Paramount TV & Digital Entertainment president Amy Powell and, hello, actor and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger...
Wimberley man released after jailed by ICE in Hays County
Wimberley man released after jailed by ICE in Hays County

A Wimberley man who was booked into the Hays County Jail on misdemeanor charges and handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was released from federal custody on Tuesday. Victor Avendano-Ramirez, 46, was arrested by Kyle police on Jan. 31 during a traffic stop. Police said Avendano-Ramirez had two outstanding warrants for his arrest...
More Stories