Allegations of corruption in tax office

June 12, 2009 3:52:27 PM PDT
There are allegations of corruption in the Harris County Tax Assessor Collector's Office. Some worry there may be a conflict of interest because a high-level employee in the county's voter registration department also works for a small company that provides voter data to Republican candidates for office. As the tax assessor collector in Harris County, Leo Vasquez is also the voter registrar. But now Democratic activist Matt Angle says a high-ranking official in Vazquez's office is acting unethically.

"It is systemic corruption when you have a political operative, who is paid by Republican politicians who sits in judgment at the elections office to determine who is registered to vote, who is not registered to vote," said Angle.

Angle is referring to Ed Johnson, the associate voter registrar of Harris County. Johnson oversees voter registration for his day job. But in his free time, he works for Campaign Data Systems, or CDS, which sells voter data to Republican candidates.

Democrats see a conflict. They argue that Johnson had the power to reject thousands of provisional voting ballots that could have benefitted Democrats.

"If his election is close, particularly if it's close enough to be decided by provisional ballots, there is someone inside who has the ability to tip the scales in his favor," said Angle.

The tax assessor disagrees, releasing a statement today that says, "They (the Democrats) have most recently pointed their finger at Mr. Ed Johnson, the voter department's associate director, and yelled "Witch!" due to his well-documented, and legal, outside business activities."

CDS was founded by current state Representative Dwayne Bohac and counts current District Attorney Pat Lykos among its clients. The company's website was recently taken down and even though Johnson still has his day job, our political consultant says this doesn't look good.

"Leaving aside whether there's legal culpability, politically this smells," said Dr. Richard Murray.

We called Lykos on Friday, who says she doesn't see a conflict. We also tried to talk to Rep. Bohac about why the website was taken down. He hasn't returned our calls.

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