HOUSTON --A Houston city council member is under fire, accused of mixing personal business with city business, and now the results of an investigation could mean consequences. We first brought the results of an Office of Inspector General investigation into councilmember Jolanda Jones as breaking news on Wednesday night. The question is what happens next? The month-long investigation came out with a three-page report. It looked serious at first, but now we're asking if the results of this investigation will have real consequences. The answer is maybe not.
On Wednesday, the report showed Jones violated several city ordinances, from using her city staff for private business to being uncooperative during the investigation. But will there be any real consequences? Criminally, it looks like no."If we were to determine that it rose to a criminal level, we would refer it to the district attorney on a first reading and then early discussions with the city attorney. I don't think that's appropriate," Mayor Annise Parker said. It was at a community meeting in early spring that Jones and her staff handed out cards titled "Know Your Rights." It gave some legal advice, and had her city council phone number listed. The Houston Police Officers Union pounced. "To put something divisive, unprofessional and outrageous out there for citizens to see did nothing more than attempt to drive a wedge between police and some persons in the community who received this card," said Ray Hunt with the Houston Police Officers Union. Jones herself proclaimed her innocence in a statement, saying: "I hold myself and my staff to the highest ethical standards. I look forward to clearing up any misunderstandings with respect to this report as expeditiously as the process permits." So now it's left to Houston City Council to reprimand or censure its own. That would require at least one other council member to submit a letter. So far, even Jones' most vocal critics seem reluctant to open that door. "I'm not going to submit a letter. I am distracted by this. Needless to say, I think it's a black mark on council. It's embarrassing for me, but I think we have much larger issues that I'm focused on," Councilman Mike Sullivan said. It remains to be seen if any of the other council members will open that door or if any criminal charges will be filed. Right now, both look unlikely so the final test for Jones, though, might be at the ballot box.