A flier of misrepresentation
Last week a new flier hit the streets of Port Arthur asking citizens to vote “no” on the last page of the election ballot, which would allow Port Arthur City Council seats 5 and 6 to be removed.
Although it is the right of citizens to voice their opinion on this election item, this flier completely misrepresents its origin. District 5 Councilman Willie Bae Lewis, who is in fear of losing his seat, added his Port Arthur City Council business card to the bottom left of the flier.
Not an issue in its own right, however, this business card bears the City of Port Arthur logo. So not only does the flier violate Texas Ethics Commission law Sec. 255.003, which describes Unlawful Use of Public Funds for Political Advertising,
but also confuses citizens as to who actually opposes this charter change.
The Texas Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 532 on this issue reads as follows.
The question: “Whether a city officeholder may distribute political advertising on certain letterhead that contains a logo and a slogan that were designed in part with the city’s public funds.”
The Opinion: An officer or employee of a political subdivision may not use city letterhead that is created by city staff or with city resources, and that contains the city’s logo and slogan that were designed with city funds, to write and distribute political advertising.
The city of Port Arthur has not shared a public opinion on this election item. Nor will they. But the city logo on this flier could lead citizens to believe otherwise. That could unfairly sway the outcome of an election.
The Texas Ethics Commission was assembled to promote public confidence in government of all levels. Be it state, county or city, all elected officials are expected to perform the duties they’ve been sworn to in an ethical manner.
Having been in city politics the better part of the past four decades, Councilman Lewis understands the Ethics Commission and rules surrounding his elected position very well. This is not a simple mistake. This was a blatant attempt to confuse citizens prior to early voting by misrepresenting actual support.