Convicted felon, ex-county commissioner Jerry Eversole will serve Harris Co. Department of Education as paid lobbyist
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Did you know your tax dollars will help pay the salary of a convicted felon? And it's not just any convicted felon. Just one year after a federal plea deal forced long-time Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole to resign, we have news that he will again serve the Harris County Department of Education as a paid lobbyist.
People might be surprised to hear this, but it's all legal. Eversole's probation is over, two years early, and it is perfectly legal to be a lobbyist for the same county in which he was convicted of a felony.
When Eversole pleaded guilty to lying to an FBI agent, he was sentenced to 3 years probation and a fine. That was last year.
"I miss my job," Jerry Eversole said back in January 2012.
Last month, a federal judge granted a motion to terminate his probation, after only one year. Eversole had originally been charged with taking tens of thousands in bribes from developer Mike Surface in exchange for county contracts.
As part of the plea deal, Eversole resigned and agreed to stay out of elected office for 10 years. But the convicted felon is now working as a lobbyist for the embattled Harris County Department of Education.
"There should be a rule in place in the county and in the state that prohibits people that have pled guilty from lobbying," said KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy.
Political watchdog groups are stunned.
"I'm shocked that this is allowed and I think taxpayers should be horrified, they should be concerned. Is this setting a precedent?" said Trent Seibert, Texas Watchdog founder and editor.
The Harris Co. Dept. of Education's Superintendent John Sawyer declined to speak to us. The department's annual budget is more than $95 million, part of that from Harris County taxpayers. And a growing number of critics say the department is unnecessary.
"Eighteen million dollars comes from local property taxes, goes to this board produces nothing that can't be gotten from its own school districts or the state department of education," said tax expert Paul Bettencourt.
So why hire Eversole? The department is fighting a bill by Republican State Representative Debbie Riddle to shut it down. Despite his conviction, detractors say Eversole's been brought on board to use his political power to save a sinking ship.
"When they're hiring Democrat consultants, they're wasting money which is what they're doing now, which is wasting money with Republican consultants," said Bettencourt.
Former commissioner Jerry Eversole is not a registered lobbyist with the Texas Ethics Commission. He is not required by law to register. Registration is voluntary.
As we mentioned, Eversole stepped down from his county commissioner's seat as part of a plea deal for lying to federal agents. That was back in March of 2011, nearly five years after 13 Undercover first began its investigation into Eversole's dealings. You can read the history of the investigation in the Related Links section above or by clicking here.
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