December 6, 2019/Media

BREAKING ICYMI: Governor Greg Abbott Accused of Removing Two Members of the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct for Opposing Him on Hateful Policies in Secret Recording

Austin, TX — In a bombshell revelation from the San Antonio Express-News, in secret recorded audio, Governor Greg Abbott’s office removed two members of the non-partisan Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct because he disagreed with their position on a case involving same-sex marriage.

From Taylor Goldenstein of the San Antonio Express-News:

  • “Two former members of the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct say Republican Gov. Greg Abbott removed them from the panel because he disagreed with their position on a case involving same-sex marriage.”

  • “Retired information technology executive Amy Suhl and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Maricela Alvarado were appointed as public members to the agency, which disciplines judges, in June of last year. About nine months later, when it came time for the Texas Senate to confirm them, their names were removed from consideration.”

  • “It’s extremely uncommon for Abbott’s office to go back on an appointment. Since 2017, only one other person has been removed for a reason other than a resignation or death, records show.”

  • “Suhl made an audio recording of a meeting with the governor’s staff and a later phone call. The recordings, which were reviewed by Hearst Newspapers, shows that the staffers were encouraging her to act with Abbott’s views in mind.”

  • “When we appoint people, we appreciate so much that people are willing to serve and hope that people understand that they’re serving the governor, not themselves,” one staffer said.

  • “The concerns of Suhl and Alvarado raise questions about the independence of the commission, which was created to handle delicate cases of judicial misconduct in private and without political interference.”

  • Abbott appointed Suhl and Alvarado, both women and one a Latina veteran, after years of criticism that he mostly chooses white men for state boards and commissions.

  • “After hearing what had occurred in Alvarado’s meeting, Suhl decided to secretly record her own meeting with Abbott’s staff. They also pressed her about her decision-making process.”

  • “‘What are you using to gauge what you think the governor would want you to be doing? Because I’m not sure we’ve given you those tools yet, and that’s what I think our concern is,’ said Peggy Venable, Abbott’s appointments director, according to the recording of the meeting.”

  • “Later, Venable suggested supplying commissioners with Abbott’s Bicentennial Blueprint, a list of his policy proposals, as a ‘road map.’”

  • “After the meeting, Suhl said she didn’t hear back from Abbott’s office until April, when a staffer informed her that the governor had ‘decided to go in a different direction.’”

  • “Suhl recorded that phone call, too. When she asked why she was being removed, Venable told her the governor had found someone else. (The two new members will not face confirmation until the Legislature reconvenes in 2021.)”

  • It was also Venable who reminded her during that call that appointees are “serving the governor, not themselves.”

  • “‘I wanted to say I thought I worked for the public,’ Suhl said.”

Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia issued the following statement:

“Appointees swear an oath to serve the people of Texas, not any politician or political party. From Donald Trump to Greg Abbott to Dennis Bonnen, Republicans are deploying Trump-style mafia politics and the consequences are dire: Texans are disrespected, the rule of law is ignored, and working people are denied the opportunities they deserve.

“While Texas Trump Republicans put the pursuit of power over everything, Texans are kicked to the curb.

“It has never been more clear, Texas Democrats need to win, not just to implement critical policies that protect every Texan’s fair shot to get ahead, but to save our state and our entire democracy.”