Hempstead and Austin, July 17 – The Texas Judicial Conduct Commission’s (TCJC) Public Warning to Waller County Judge Carbet J. “Trey” Duhon, III, should serve as a warning to all elected officials that there are state officials in Austin watching the activities of elected servants who run outside of the lines in the political fundraising world. The TCJC in Austin issued a stern Public Warning to Duhon on June 28, 2018, after finding Duhon had lent the “prestige of judicial office” to advance his private interests and those of Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis.
Importantly, the TCJC made clear that political fundraising is a private interest, an obvious reality that Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley has attempted to skirt through his use of the money, staff, and resources of the Magnolia Independent School District for his political campaign through the guise of the so-called “Charlie Riley Band.”
Duhon is the Waller County Judge. He’s also a practicing attorney with his own law firm where he and his wife work. Besides presiding over the Waller County Commissioners Court, Duhon also performs criminal magistrate work and signs search and DWI blood warrants. Dun does not preside over criminal cases, although, as an attorney serving as County Judge, he could do so.
On June 30, 2017, a political action committee named “Citizens in Support of Duhon & Mathis” held a concert at the Waller Creek Fairgrounds to raise money for Duhon’s and Mathis’ re-election campaigns. They did joint advertising through campaign flyers and sold the tickets jointly online, by telephone, or “at the law firm of Trey Duhon.” Duhon acknowledged he was aware of those advertising activities and attended some of the PAC meetings as well as helping to underwrite the event. After the event, the PAC distributed $19,529 each to the Duhon and Mathis campaigns.
The TCJC concluded that Duhon lent the prestige of his judicial office to advance the private interests of Mathis when he participated in a joint fundraising event with the elected District Attorney, Mathis, in violation of Canon 2B of the Texas Judicial Conduct Code. Additionally, by authorizing the use of his name, title, and photograph on fundraising advertisements for the benefit of the judge and the elected District Attorney, Duhon publicly endorsed another candidate for public office in violation of Canon 5(2). As a result, the TCJC issued a Public Warning to Duhon.
While the actions of elected servants such as Riley don’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Judicial Conduct Code, the TCJC clearly determined that political fundraising constitutes a private interest. Similarly, Riley’s use of the “Charlie Riley Band” with his campaign logo in events of the Magnolia ISD clearly crosses the line into uses the public resources and money of the Magnolia ISD for Riley’s private interests.
While the Montgomery County District Attorney, Brett Ligon, may view such matters as unworthy of public enforcement, at least the TCJC took some minimal action to ensure that Duhon would alter his conduct in the future. Of course, Riley defiantly continues to use the County government as his private storage facility and to use the Magnolia ISD as his private campaign committee.