Disgraced former Rep. Blake Farenthold’s new employer is seeking the opinion of Texas’ attorney general about the legality of his hiring.
The Calhoun Port Authority is asking whether Farenthold’s hiring violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, the Victoria Advocate reported.
Farenthold announced his hiring last week and it was revealed the job was a new position to lobby in Washington for port funding for improvements.
There were questions raised immediately about whether Farenthold’s position was approved in a closed-session discussion on May 9.
Attorneys told the Advocate that the port needed to post Farenthold being hired a lobbyist as part of its agenda but it did not.
From the Vault: Farenthold Resigns from Congress
“If the port was interested in understanding its obligations under the Texas Open Meetings Act, they should have asked that before entering into a decision to hire Mr. Farenthold with no public notice,” Victoria attorney John Griffin told the Advocate.
Calhoun County Port Authority Board Chairman Randy L. Boyd said he did not think Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton would view Farenthold’s firing as illegal “because our executive director (Charles Hausmann) has the authority under the Texas Water Code and the board adopted an employee policy manual to hire and fire all employees except for the port director and assistant port director.”
But Boyd said he will respect the attorney general’s opinion, either way.
If the port is sued and finds that the port violated the Open Meetings Act, Paxton’s opinion will be irrelevant and Farenthold’s hiring would be nullified.
Boyd said in his statement that Hausmann hired the former congressman to push the Army Corps of Engineers to repair jetties around the port that have been scoured and undermined. The port has been pushing the Corps to repair the jetties, which it constructed in the 1960s, since 1999.
The Corps acknowledged the problems in 2016 but has yet to commit to repairs, estimated to cost between $90 million to $100 million, according to the newspaper.
“Blake has the mission to ‘get this done’ for the taxpayers of Calhoun County,” Boyd said. “Blake has experience as a former member of the [House] Transportation Committee and can also help us with our widening and deepening project.”
After initially saying he would pay the money back, Farenthold said he would not after consulting with his lawyers. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also asked Farenthold to pay for the special election to replace him, but he refused that as well.
Farenthold dodged questions about his hiring during a Texas Tribune event on Friday.
“I’m trying to get on with my life. I wasn’t involved other than I talked to them about a job. I don’t know anything about it. I’m not talking to reporters. I’m a private citizen now,” he said.