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March Legislative Update

Castleberry ISD Superintendent Tells District Leadership to ‘Vote Accordingly’ in Primary

(This is happening in every school district across the state of Texas. They are also telling staff if you want to save your job vote anyone who voted for school choice out)

Superintendent Renee Smith-Faulkner forwarded a voter guide from the Castleberry ISD Retired Teachers Association and told district administrators to follow its recommendations.

Emily Medeiros | February 28, 2024

As early voting is underway and Election Day is fast approaching, another school district superintendent has allegedly sent an email to staff telling them to “vote accordingly” in the primary election. 

Leaked emails uncovered by Current Revolt show Castleberry Independent School District Superintendent Renee Smith-Faulkner instructing the district’s “administrative leadership team” to vote according to a voter guide from the Castleberry ISD Retired Teachers Association

“Please take the information in her email and vote accordingly,” reads the email from Smith-Faulkner. “The main responsibility we have is to have a voice in the future of public education.” 

“Vote in the primaries. Have a voice!” the email concluded. 

The email forwarded from the president of the Castleberry ISD Retired Teachers Association, Linda Jo Galvan, shares that she is angry at Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton trying to get out the vote for primary challengers running against the “legislators who voted for us against vouchers and those who voted to impeach Paxton.” 

“All I know to do is share our desire to get these brave legislators elected again and all of Paxton and Abbott’s efforts get thwarted,” reads the email from Galvan. “They need to see that they have made us common people angry and we can see through their evil ways.” 

Galvan then tells the recipients of the email—Smith-Faulkner and Kelli Kelsoe, the director of Instructional Technology at Castleberry ISD—to forward the list of candidates to “retirees, teachers or essential workers who are for us.”

The email not only covered the legislative seats up for a vote but also for the State Board of Education primary, where Galvan advises people to vote for incumbent Pat Hardy over her challenger Brandon Hall. 

“First of all, remember to vote for Pat Hardy for the State Board of Education. She has done a stellar job. She is against vouchers. She has a challenger who likes vouchers, Brandon [sic] Hill. We need to make sure she is reelected and Brandon is sent away.” 

The voter guide listed in the email divides the candidates by “legislators for us” and “Abbott/Paxton Challenger.”

“Let’s show up to the polls and vote those for us in… and those against us out,” concludes the email. 

Christine Welborn, executive director of election security organization Advancing Integrity told Texas Scorecard that this behavior from school districts should not be tolerated. 

“This is happening all over Texas. School resources cannot be used for electioneering,” said Welborn. “Naming ‘brave legislators’ and telling people to ‘vote accordingly’ should not be tolerated.”

Last week, Texas Scorecard reported on Denison ISD’s Superintendent David Kirkbride sending out an email to district employees encouraging them to vote for candidates who “support public education” while decrying the governor’s push for school choice for Texas students.  

Additionally, Paxton announced that he is filing civil actions against Denton ISD for allowing two administrators to send explicit political messages to staff in what Paxton describes as “illegal” election activity.

Government school officials accused of illegal electioneering can be reported to the Texas Ethics Commission, which is authorized to impose fines for election code violations, and to the Texas Education Agency, which can revoke educators’ certifications. 


Vegas Bets Big on Speaker Phelan

The casino lobby has emerged from the shadows to play the primary election.

After mainly remaining on the sidelines ahead of the primary, casino companies seeking to turn Texas into a piggy bank are spending big to back the current House Speaker and his allies.

Chief among these out-of-state interlopers is Las Vegas Sands, giving through its “Texas” Sands PAC. The largest beneficiary of Sands’ money in the latest filing period is embattled House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont).

The casino outfit gave $200,000 to the Speaker, his second-largest donation in the latest filing period. Another gambling behemoth, Penn Entertainment Inc., gave Phelan $20,000. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma donated $10,000.

Gambling special interests have long targeted Texas but have been rebuffed for decades following failed promises of the Texas Lottery. During the 2023 legislative session, the Texas House advanced gambling measures that the Texas Senate ignored.

In this latest period, Sands gave $1.8 million to Texas politicians. This money went exclusively to members of the Texas House, with Republicans taking $1.34 million and Democrats $457,500. This is potentially a preview of a deluge of money that big gambling may spend in the lead-up to the 2025 legislative session.

State Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin), a key proponent of growing the gambling footprint in Texas, received the second-highest total from Sands at $110,000. Like Phelan, Keumpel finds himself up against a field of challengers, including Alan Schoolcraft who enjoys the endorsement of Gov. Greg Abbott and heavy financial backing.

First Last Challenged Amount Party Chamber Seat
Dade Phelan (I) Y $200,000.00 R House 21
John Kuempel (I) Y $110,000.00 R House 44
Lacey Hull (I) Y $79,000.00 R House 138
Richard Hayes (I) N $79,000.00 R House 57
Hugh Shine (I) Y $79,000.00 R House 55
Stephen Allison (I) Y $79,000.00 R House 121
Harold Dutton (I) Y $79,000.00 D House 142
Justin Holland (I) Y $79,000.00 R House 33
Charles Geren (I) Y $60,000.00 R House 99
Ronald Reynolds (I) Y $55,000.00 D House 27

It’s typical for lobbies advancing controversial policies to hold back donations to shield candidates from attacks leading up to elections. Disclosure of Sands giving comes halfway through early voting and a week before election day.

A week out from the primary election, President Donald Trump called anyone supporting the candidacy of Phelan “foolish” in a Truth Social post.

Early voting is ongoing and ends March 1. Election day is March 5.

Texas Buses 100k Illegal Aliens Out of State

The Texas Department of Emergency Management is facilitating the busing of illegal aliens to sanctuary cities but does not appear to be screening them for criminal backgrounds.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Texas has bused more than 103,600 illegal aliens to sanctuary cities. 

This includes over 12,500 to Washington, D.C. since April 2022; 38,200 to New York City since August 2022; 31,700 to Chicago since August 2022; 3,400 to Philadelphia since November 2022; 16,300 to Denver since May 2023; and 1,500 to Los Angeles since June 2023.

Texas Scorecard asked the Texas Department of Emergency Management how the state is screening illegal aliens for criminal backgrounds before busing them further into the country, but TDEM provided a non-answer. 

After a Public Information Act request to TDEM asking for all records of identification, screening, criminal background checks, and tracking systems for illegal aliens bused out of the state turned up nothing, Texas Scorecard followed up by asking if this means that there are no screening processes in place for the illegal alien busing program. 

TDEM Chief of Media, Communications, and Preparedness Seth Christensen responded to Texas Scorecard’s inquiry, stating that there are no records responsive to the public records request because “the state’s border bus program transports individuals with documentation following their processing and release by the federal government in overwhelmed Texas border communities.” 

Christensen continued, explaining that “[i]n order to board state buses traveling to sanctuary cities, a migrant must sign a State of Texas Travel Consent Form” and provide the following documentation that would prove their release by the federal government: 

Notice to Appear or Call in Letter

Order of Release on Recognizance 

However, Christensen avoided answering if TDEM screens for criminal backgrounds. 

Texas Scorecard followed up with Christensen and asked if the federal documentation notes if he or she is wanted for a crime other than illegal border crossings. This could include but are not limited to sex trafficking, murder, and/or rape. 

Christensen did not answer any more inquiries—even after multiple extended deadlines. Texas Scorecard reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and asked how they screen for criminal backgrounds when processing illegal aliens but has not yet received an official response. 

A 2020 press release from CBP says it is the responsibility of a CBP officer to determine admissibility at Ports of Entry into the United States. It also states that officers are responsible for preventing the entry of ineligible aliens including criminals. 

However, the press release does not provide any other information about how illegal aliens are screened for previous criminal activity.

Houston Announces 40th Annual ‘March on Crime’ Amid Police Department Scandal over Failure to Investigate Sex Crimes

Police Chief Finner admitted to knowing that at least 4,000 adult sex crime investigations had been suspended for lack of personnel since 2016.


Houston Police Chief Troy Finner.

(City of Houston)

On Monday afternoon Finner admitted in a statement that there had been approximately 264,000 incident reports suspended under the “lack of personnel” code, including about 100,000 property crimes. The statute of limitations for prosecution of most property crimes is five years. (This is why it looked like the Crime Rate went down during Turner’s reign and why people feel reporting crime is useless. Finner needs to be fired but the new Mayor has said he has faith in him unfortunately the public doesn’t)

Embattled Houston Police Chief Troy Finner announced the launch of the city’s 40th annual “March on Crime” on Monday amid public demand for answers about the suspension of criminal investigations due to a lack of personnel dating back to 2016.

After thanking local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies for collaborative efforts, Finner asked the media to focus on the March on Crime while deferring further questions about the Houston Police Department’s (HPD) failure to investigate at least 4,017 adult sex crimes for nearly eight years.  (Of course he did look here not there deflect deflect)

“Our top priority, I’m talking about HPD right now at the moment, is our special victim’s division review of the incident reports on adult sex crimes,” said Finner. “We are making progress and reviewing the reports, and also contacting the complainants.”

During a press conference the previous week, Finner admitted that he had known about HPD’s use of the “lack of personnel” suspension code since November 2021, but claimed he did not know about the continued use of the code until February 2024. He also could not say whether victims had been notified or whether the suspension code had been used by other HPD divisions.

Appointed by former Mayor Sylvester Turner in April 2021, Finner said he had told the division to stop using the code.

“Yes, I am accountable for the entire department; I’m not responsible for each and every individual, everything that they do, especially when there’s been some direction to do the right thing,” said Finner. (Yes, you are accountable you are the BOSS. You have exhibited poor management skills. If the department is too big for you to manage you should resign or be fired.)

Houston Police Officers’ Union President Doug Griffith told The Texan that the code for suspending an investigation was included in procedure documentation for at least two other HPD divisions.

“Both the Vehicular Crimes Division, investigating auto theft, and the Major Assaults-Family Violence division have been using that code, and there may be more,” said Griffith, but he did not know if the investigation suspensions were skewing crime statistics. (Of course, the non-investigated crimes are skewing crime statistics how can they not be.)

Last year, Finner reported to the city council that crime in several categories had declined from peak numbers in 2021. However, Houstonians have continued to list public safety as a top concern and last year elected former state Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chair John Whitmire to replace the term-limited Turner as Houston mayor.

In launching the March on Crime, Finner touted collaboration with other law enforcement agencies — a policy implemented by Whitmire in January — to expand a safe streets initiative to crack down on street takeovers and roadway violence. He added that other initiatives would tackle violent crime.

“Over 20 percent of the homicides are the result of domestic violence,” said Finner.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who withdrew his nomination from the Biden administration to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after he was accused of domestic assault, also expressed support for Whitmire’s directives and emphasized the need to address domestic violence.

Earlier this month, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct suspended Harris County Criminal Court Judge Frank Aguilar over his arrest for domestic violence on New Year’s Eve. (Which hundreds have been reported and not investigated.)

Finner said it will take at least 30 days to complete an internal investigation on how many cases were suspended and downplayed some of the numbers, saying some were duplicate reports and that some may have been mistakes. He said that he had pulled 32 investigators from other divisions to focus on the sex crimes handled by the Special Victims Division.

Houston has struggled to recruit new officers as many veteran HPD staff are retiring. Although the total number of department positions has hovered around 5,200 for nearly two decades, according to Griffith there are only 300 to 400 officers patrolling Houston’s 677 square miles at any given time.

Texas Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) said in a statement Monday that her office would consider new legislation in response to HPD’s failure to investigate crimes.

“I trust that there will be a thorough investigation and determination of why this internal policy of suspending cases due to a lack of personnel was enacted and allowed to continue for years,” said Huffman, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.

“As we get more information from the Houston Police Department and City Hall, I will be working to determine if legislation is necessary to further protect the rights of victims to have their cases fully investigated.”

Finner also expressed frustration over county judges and magistrates who release repeat violent offenders on bond.

“We’re rearresting some of the most violent offenders. “We cannot allow them out once they’ve been violent time after time again,” said Finner. “To rearrest them, [we are] risking our lives, risking everybody else’s lives.”

When asked last week why female victims of sexual assault should trust him as head of HPD, a defensive Finner said, “We’re not going to make anything personal.”

“People know my heart and they know me, and they know when I say something, I’m going to do it.” (I don’t know Finner from the man in the moon. I don’t know his heart. All I know is that he has failed to investigate thousands of sex crimes and car thefts and Domestic Violence crimes. Finner has been in office since 2021 and has done nothing to correct these issues why should we believe he will do anything now.)

Whitmire did not attend the press conferences with Finner and has not issued an official statement on the matter, but told KPRC that the sex crime backlog was “alarming” and that he would demand full accountability.


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