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Dallas Sheriff Candidate Investigated for Possible Violation of Hatch Act

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX –

Catherine Cuellar, 90.1 Reporter: Dallas County Democratic Party chair Susan Hays says Danny Chandler has violated the Hatch Act in his job as Director of the Department for Security and Emergency Management. The Hatch Act prohibits government employees who apply for or administer federal grants from running for a partisan public office. Hays revealed documents yesterday which show that since winning the Republican primary, Chandler has been named as the recipient of a grant to improve county security and served on a committee advising how grants should be spent.

Susan Hays, Dallas County Democratic Party Chair: That is precisely what the Hatch Act is intended to prevent. It's intended to prevent people from running for partisan office while using the power to dispense federal pork behind them to help garner support.

Cuellar: Democratic sheriff candidate Lupe Valdez says she retired from her post as a senior agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security because of the Hatch Act.

Lupe Valdez, Democratic Candidate for Sheriff: I was faced with a difficult decision. If I ran for office, I would have to retire and I would lose the job that I love, a salary that I enjoyed, and retirement income.

Cuellar: Dallas County Republican Party chair Nate Crain says Sheriff Jim Bowles, who lost to Danny Chandler in the GOP primary, is behind the Democrats' charges. As evidence, Crain noted that the law firm representing Bowles donated $5,000 to Valdez's campaign.

Nate Crain, Dallas County Republican Party Chair: With the help of Jim Bowles and his attorney, the Democrats have dredged up an issue that was settled before the Republican primary. This is no more than sour grapes and a vindictive act by Jim Bowles.

Cuellar: When Chandler defeated Bowles in the primary, Bowles was under investigation for his relationship with Jack Madera, who spent thousands of dollars lobbying the sheriff's department before Bowles awarded him a $20 million no-bid contract. Bowles was exonerated after the primary. A Chandler campaign spokesman says Bowles, embittered by his Republican challengers, filed federal complaints against them for violating the Hatch Act. It was actually Dallas-dot-org activist Allen Gwinn who asked the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to investigate all four Republican candidates seeking the sheriff's office last winter. In February, the OSC wrote Chandler that he was not in violation, but his future duties might cause a problem.

But the Office of Special Counsel said another primary candidate, Deputy Leonard Bueber, did violate the Hatch Act because his salary was partially paid by a federal grant. He was ordered to resign, but refused, and Bowles won't fire him. So the OSC is now suing Bueber and Bowles for failing to comply. Bowles thinks Chandler is getting preferential treatment.

George Nicholas, Attorney for Jim Bowles: This is selective enforcement.

Cuellar: Lawyer George Nicholas represents Sheriff Bowles.

Nicholas: How is it Danny Chandler, whose main job it is to apply for, be the recipient of Federal Grants, administer federal grants, in his department financed by federal grants - how is it he gets to run for sheriff?

Cuellar: Jim Jackson, a Republican Dallas County Commissioner who has endorsed Chandler, says Nicholas is exaggerating Chandler's authority.

Jim Jackson, Dallas County Commissioner: Danny Chandler really doesn't receive grant funds. The funds we receive go into our general fund and is allocated by the Dallas County Commissioner's Court.

Cuellar: Chandler isn't commenting, but in a statement, his campaign spokesman said that earlier this year, it was determined that the Hatch Act does not apply to Mr. Chandler, and they fully expect a similar ruling this time as well. For KERA 90.1, I'm Catherine Cuellar.


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