The day that abuse of office charges were dropped against State Representative Dawnna Dukes, Speaker Joe Straus issued a charge to members of a House Committee to review the problem that led to the faulty indictment.
The order for a legislative travel pay policy review came on Monday. it was issued about the same time documents were being filed in Travis County District Court. Charges of abuse of power and tampering against Dukes were dropped. Dukes, in an exclusive one on one interview, responded to the court action.
"I knew that I was not guilty of a single one of those charges,” said Dukes.
In January Dukes was booked into jail after being indicted on several felony and misdemeanor counts. The investigation started in February of 2016, and as the case moved into preliminary court hearings, the Travis county lawmaker continued to deny any wrong doing.
"We did not have a doubt the decision would come favorably for us, because of the evidence we always had,” said Dukes.
Dukes was accused of getting legislative pay for days she was not at the capitol. There were also charges she made her staff run personal errands and provide child care. Monday, Travis County District Attorney Margret Moore conceded the main charges wouldn't stick. She blamed the way that business is done under the capitol dome for the collapse of the case.
In the statement issued by Moore, she criticized the head of the House Business Office for providing conflicting information about the rules for travel pay. According to Moore, because the office “did not enforce the House rule requiring travel to the capitol and because of the lack of House policies regarding the type of activities that would qualify as legislative business, we cannot demonstrate that Rep. Dukes received the payments because of her false statements.”
Dukes believes the only mistake made was by investigators who didn’t understand the law.
"If you attend a funeral of a state employee, then you can use per diem. You can get per diem if you are flying your plane, even if it’s not in Austin. Because state business does not only take place in the capitol building,” said Dukes.
A review into what happened is now part of the Legislative Interim Charge, issued Monday by House Speaker Straus. Members of the House Administration Committee are to look into the policies and guidelines relating to expenditures for salaries, operations, travel and per diem.
Dukes is confident the review will at the least reaffirm one thing.
"The Constitution clearly states the courts have no authority in determining what the House rules are,” said Dukes.
As part of the decision to drop charges Dukes has paid the state $1,340 for making a staffer provide transportation for her daughter. She has paid an outstanding $500 ethics fine and reimbursed her campaign fund $5,230. Rep. Dukes denied the money is restitution, and said her legal costs have totaled almost $200,000. Dukes stopped short of calling the charges politically motivated, she did say she will run for re-election.