DALLAS — A San Antonio judge will name a special prosecutor next week to investigate whether Texas Gov. Rick Perry violated state law by threatening to veto funding for an ethics enforcement unit of the Travis County District Attorney's Office.
Senior District Judge Robert "Bert" Richardson was appointed July 15, to supervise the investigation of Perry's role in trying to force the resignation of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.
Richardson told The Bond Buyer Thursday that the appointment of the attorney leading the investigation "would probably be next week."
"That's about all I can say right now," he added.
Lehmberg's office includes the Public Integrity Unit that is charged with investigating violations of state law by public officials statewide.
Perry followed through with his threat to line-item veto the entire $7 million of state funding for the unit, saying he did so because Lehmberg would not resign.
Perry claimed he was trying to force Lehmberg's resignation because she had been arrested for driving while intoxicated. However, Democrats objected to the fact that Perry would be able to appoint a Republican to replace Lehmberg in heavily Democratic Austin.
Perry vetoed the funding as the Public Integrity Unit was investigating his role in financial irregularities in the $3 billion, bond-funded Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.
CPRIT nearly lost its funding in this year's legislative session after a series of reports in The Dallas Morning News about grants that were awarded to Perry's political donors without proper review.
After a shake-up of the agency, CPRIT was allowed to continue operations using taxpayer money.
Travis County Commissioners Court funding of $1.76 million will allow the office to continue to prosecute the out-of-county cases it has already started.
Perry, who is exploring another run for the presidency after his failed effort in 2012, has announced that he will not run for a fourth term as governor in 2014. Perry is the longest-serving governor in Texas history.
Attorney General Gregg Abbott, whose office holds a seat on the CPRIT board, is the only contender to replace Perry so far. Abbott, a close ally of Perry, also announced an investigation of the CPRIT, but critics cited a conflict of interest since his office was involved in the agency.
The investigation of Perry was prompted by a complaint filed by Texans For Public Justice, a public-interest watchdog group. TPJ called for an investigation of Perry under state laws covering coercion of a public servant, abuse of official capacity, official oppression and bribery.
"Governor Perry's official threats attempt to obtain two things that he can't achieve through legal democratic means," said TPJ director Craig McDonald. "First, to remove an elected Democrat and replace her with an appointed Republican DA. Second, to wipe out the state's public corruption watchdog, which is currently investigating corruption in at least one of the governor's signature corporate subsidy programs."