«ORDER and AGREED RESOLUTION I. Recitals The Texas Ethics Commission (the commission) met on February 12, 2009, to consider sworn complaint SC-280295. ...»
TEXAS ETHICS COMMISSION
IN THE MATTER OF § BEFORE THE
ADOLPH CANALES, § TEXAS ETHICS COMMISSION
RESPONDENT § SC-280295
AGREED RESOLUTIONI. Recitals The Texas Ethics Commission (the commission) met on February 12, 2009, to consider sworn complaint SC-280295. A quorum of the commission was present. The commission determined that there is credible evidence of violations of section 253.035 of the Election Code and section 20.63 of the Ethics Commission Rules, laws administered and enforced by the commission. To resolve and settle this complaint without further proceedings, the commission proposes this resolution to the respondent.
II. Allegations The complaint alleges that the respondent converted political contributions to personal use.
III. Facts Supported by Credible Evidence
Credible evidence available to the commission supports the following findings of fact:
1. The respondent is a senior judge and was the district judge of the 298th judicial district (Dallas County) in Texas until his term ended on January 1, 2007.
2. The allegations are based on expenditures made from political contributions that the respondent disclosed in campaign finance reports. The allegations are that the respondent converted political contributions to personal use in connection with the following
expenditures in approximate amounts:
● $11,200 for computer equipment, computer supplies, and software in 2003 ● $5,470 for computer equipment, computer supplies, software, Christmas bonuses to court staff, and a magazine subscription in 2004
ORDER AND AGREED RESOLUTION PAGE 1 OF 17TEXAS ETHICS COMMISSION SC-280295 ● $3,940 for computer equipment, computer supplies, software, Christmas bonuses to court staff, car rentals, magazine subscriptions, books, and maps in 2005 ● $21,120 for computer equipment, software, printer supplies, Christmas bonuses to court staff, car rentals, magazine subscriptions, lodging, and reimbursements to staff and the respondent in 2006 ● $500 for computer software and a Christmas payment to staff in 2007
3. The respondent stated in his semiannual campaign finance report filed on January 12, 2006, that he was not seeking re-election as a district judge. He filed a designation of a final report on January 31, 2006.
4. There is no evidence that the respondent received a reimbursement with public money for any of the expenditures at issue.
Payment to Minister
5. The respondent disclosed a political expenditure of $1,500 on December 28, 2006, to an individual for, “Baptist street minister (Oak Cliff streets) for many years of prayer and support and good deeds.” The payee’s address was disclosed as “Address Unknown (transient) (comes around courthouse)” in Dallas. There is no evidence that the payee was affiliated with a charitable organization at the time the expenditure at issue was made.
6. In response to the allegation, the respondent swears:
While the minister may not have qualified as a 501(c)(3) organization, he had had a positive impact on the community by attempting to get young men out of gangs and off of the streets. This was indeed a charitable contribution in every sense of the term. The Ethics Commission recognizes that substantial compliance with section 253.035 is sufficient. See [Ethics Advisory Opinion] No. 258 (1995) (noting that although candidate had technically violated section 253.035(h), his actions sufficiently conformed to this provision by substantially complying with its terms).
Payments to Staff
7. The respondent disclosed approximately $4,700 in political expenditures to court staff for bonuses and Christmas gifts. Regarding the expenditures, the respondent swears that the expenditures were “to supplement the salary of government employees who worked for Respondent while he held the elected office of district judge.”
Computers for Court Staff
8. The respondent disclosed two political expenditures totaling approximately $3,080 for computers for court staff.
9. The respondent’s July 2006 and January 2007 semiannual reports did not disclose any assets valued at $500 or more that were purchased with political contributions and were on hand as of the last day of the reporting period.
10. Regarding the expenditures for computers, the respondent swears that he purchased computer equipment for court personnel to use in the performance of their official duties for him while
he was a district judge. He also swears:
Conference Expenses for Court Administrator
11. The respondent disclosed a political expenditure of $549 to the “Nat’l Center for State Courts” in Williamsburg, Virginia, on October 18, 2006, for his court administrator to attend a conference. The respondent also disclosed a political expenditure of $945.20 to the court administrator on December 19, 2006, for “Reimbursement NCSC Conference airfare hotel and misc. expenses.”
12. Regarding the expenditures for the conference, the respondent swears:
Respondent paid for these expenses while he held the elected office of district judge. The court administrator’s duties were of great assistance to the Respondent with his official duties and activities. A judge may use political contributions to pay the expenses for an individual to attend an educational conference so that the individual may assist the judge in the performance of his official duties.
40-Hour Seminar, Lodging, Meals, and Related Expenses
13. The respondent disclosed a political expenditure of $5,831.92 to the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas, for “seven nights suite for week long legal seminar – 40 hours CLE” (continuing legal education). The respondent also disclosed a political expenditure of $983.50 to the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution (CPPDR) in Austin, Texas, on October 4, 2006, for “seminar 40 hours CLE.” The respondent also disclosed a political
expenditure of $597.58 to AVIS Rent-a-Car in Austin, Texas, on December 9, 2006, for “rental car for week long seminar.”
14. The CPPDR is a non-profit organization located at the University of Texas School of Law. It offered a 40-Hour Basic Mediation Training course in December 2006.
15. The registration fee for the December 2006 course included $945 for attendance (government/non-profit rate) and $38.50 for an optional mediation textbook. The course provides 40 hours of CLE credit that may be used to satisfy CLE requirements with the State Bar of Texas.
16. Regarding the expenditures related to the CPPDR conference, the respondent swears:
All the expenditures for lodging and travel which I reported were directly related to obtaining additional continuing education and the corresponding CLE credit hours. I have always sought more CLE credit than the minimum required. The more CLE a judge obtains, I believe, the better off he/she will be. The minimum requirements are just that, in my opinion. Judges and lawyers are strongly urged to obtain as much CLE as possible. The College of the State Bar is there for the purpose of encouraging lawyers and judges to continue to educate themselves in all aspects of the law. In addition, alternate dispute resolution is an integral part of the civil litigation practice, in which all lawyers and judges should be well versed and familiar with [sic].
17. The respondent provided a copy of an invoice from the Four Seasons Hotel that details $5,840.04 in charges relating to a stay from December 3 to December 9, 2006. The hotel is a luxury hotel in Austin next to Lady Bird Lake and features a restaurant and “Lobby Lounge” available to guests. The charges correspond to the $5,831.92 expenditure the respondent disclosed to the hotel in his report. The charges include $4,200 for a guest room at $700 per night, lodging, taxes, valet parking, meals and beverages, beverages from a private bar, and a charge for a local telephone call.
18. The respondent provided additional information regarding some of the charges on the invoice. Regarding a charge of $325.66 to a restaurant and $46.25 to a “Lobby Lounge” for “pre-dinner” on December 5, 2006, the respondent swears, “There were four of us, another district judge, whom I would rather not mention by name, and a friend’s son and his wife, and myself. We had dinner.” The respondent estimated his portion of the meal at 1/4 of the total cost or $92.98. He states that the remaining amount of $278.93 is “arguably not related, though I still believe they were related to officeholder activities.”
19. Regarding the charges for lodging, the respondent also swears:
20. The respondent swears regarding the following additional charges that were included on the
• $62.24 for room service on December 7, 2006. The respondent states, “assume this was my wife’s lunch.” • $36.27 for room service on December 8, 2006. The respondent states, “my wife’s breakfast?” • $45.89 for “The Café” on December 8, 2006. The respondent states, “my wife’s lunch?” • $54.23 for room service on December 9, 2006. The respondent states, “my wife’s and my breakfast—departure date,” and that his half of the charge is $27.12, but that the amount “cannot be exact” and that the remaining $27.11 is “arguably not related.”
21. Of the charges for room service and lunch, the respondent states that $171.51 is “attributable to my wife.”
22. The list also includes an expenditure of $57.12 to “Moonshine Patio” on December 8, 2006.
The respondent states in his response to the complaint, “My wife and I had dinner night before departure.” He claims that his half of the meal is $28.56, that the amount “cannot be exact,” and that the remaining balance of $28.56 is “arguably not related.”
23. The list also includes an expenditure of $457.75 on December 7, 2006, to the Driskill Hotel.
The respondent states, “My wife and I and a friend’s daughter and her friend. We had dinner.” He claims that his portion of the meal is 1/4 of the total or $114.44 and that the remaining balance of $343.31 is “arguably not related, though I feel otherwise.” The respondent disclosed this particular expenditure in his campaign finance report and disclosed the purpose as “appreciation dinner with supporters.”
24. The respondent disclosed in his personal financial statement (PFS) covering 2007 that his source of occupational income was his self-employment as “consulting, mediation, arbitration.” In the PFS covering 2006, the respondent disclosed two sources of occupational income: district judge and “now self-employed as mediator/arbitrator & judge, sitting by assignment.” In the PFS covering 2005, the respondent disclosed his source of occupational income as the State of Texas and that he was employed as a civil district judge.
Other Car Rental Expenses and Reimbursements
25. The respondent disclosed the approximately $3,070 in political expenditures for car rentals, and other expenses disclosed with the purpose of attending judicial conferences, including $440.63 to the respondent for “Reimbursement for expenses incurred for gasoline and food and gratuities for two CLE seminars;” $225 to the respondent for “reimbursement (estimated) AVIS rent car Corpus Christi Judicial Conference;” and $746.84 to the respondent for “reimbursement food and gasoline and misc expenses at Houston Judicial Conference September 2006.”
26. The respondent did not disclose any political expenditures made from personal funds, or that reimbursement was intended for any expenditures, in any campaign finance reports filed with the commission.
27. Regarding the reimbursements to the respondent for travel expenses, the respondent swears:
I reported the reimbursements to myself because I had to charge these expenses to my credit card and/or paid cash for a few minor expenses. It is evident from the report that I was reporting personal fund expenditures and simultaneously seeking reimbursement for those personal expenses incurred in conjunction with attending the Judicial Conference in Houston at the Westin Galleria.
28. Regarding the expenditure for the “estimated” reimbursement of $225, the respondent
Magazine and Newspaper Subscriptions and Books
29. The respondent disclosed approximately $920 in political expenditures for magazine and newspaper subscriptions and books. The expenditures include $245 to the Wall Street Journal on August 30, 2004, for a subscription and online access and $289 to the respondent on October 5, 2006, for “reimbursement WSJ subscription.”
30. In response to the allegations, the respondent swears:
These magazines and books were all purchased while Respondent was sitting as an elected district court judge. These items were mailed to the courthouse and provided to the jury for their use, although Respondent and other court personnel read them as well. Such an expense is related to Respondent’s official duties and is not a conversion to personal use. As to the Wall Street Journal, Respondent continues to use that publication to keep himself informed about current business and legal issues helpful in his duties as a visiting judge. For a certain period of time after Respondent became a senior judge he received some of the other magazines at his home. This incidental personal use will be reimbursed.
31. The respondent also swears:
The magazines all had different beginning and ending dates on the subscriptions. All were delivered to the court and used in the jury room.