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County Judge, Commissioner disagree over potential lobbyist ties

Posted: 6:24 PM, Jan 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-31 20:23:01-05

 

Of the three firms picked as finalists to lobby for Nueces County with the 86th Texas Legislature Legislature in Austin, only one has local ties.

“I am a major advocate of making certain, as is our legislative delegation, that we have local representation,” said Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales.  “I can’t be in Austin all the time, I need that local. “

That firm is Texana Public Affairs, but Precinct 1 County Commissioner Carolyn Vaughn has concerns about Texana.

“A person with Texana represents the drainage district in Robstown,” said Vaughn.  “We’re not saying we want a drainage district, but drainage is one of the topics we’re going to pursue.”

That person is long-time former State Rep. Hugo Berlanga.  Vaughn says there’s a conflict of interest.

“We need someone that’s going to represent us,” said Vaughn.

Canales doesn’t agree.

“Texana was very smart in the way they teamed up with a local representative that I know, trust, and know is really effective,” said Canales.

Berlanga is close friends with Canales’ family.  Vaughn says she’d recuse herself if she were in Canales’ position.

“You have to be real careful when you have friends,” said Vaughn.  “That does bother me, I’m not going to say it doesn’t, that bothers me a lot.  For me, I would have to recuse myself and say I’m not touching this.”

However, Canales says won’t recuse herself, and doesn’t believe she needs to.  She feels her relationship with Berlanga makes her uniquely familiar with his, and Texana’s qualifications.

“What we want are effective advocates,” said Canales.  “The fact that I know him means that I can testify that his abilities are extraordinary.”

Canales says the County Attorney agrees there is no conflict of interest, and issued an opinion saying so.  KRIS 6 News County Attorney’s office for a copy of that opinion, but haven’t received a response.

County Commissioners are expected to pick a lobbyist during a special Commissioners Court meeting Friday.