An Austin lawyer has sued the state for paying a monthly salary to Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, saying she vacated her state office when she moved out of the capital city to run for the state Senate.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Austin attorney and former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire, claims Jones’ Nov. 1 move put her in place to challenge fellow Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, but violated a constitutional requirement that statewide officeholders reside in the capital city. They are running for a state senate district that includes western Hays County.
The suit says that since Jones isn’t eligible to serve as railroad commissioner, she shouldn’t be drawing a state paycheck. “When an officer is prohibited by the constitution from discharging the duties of her office, her term in office has fully and finally ended, she cannot be a de facto officer and is nothing more than an interloper,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit doesn’t name Jones as a defendant. Aleshire, a Democrat, is suing Comptroller Susan Combs, who signs those paychecks to the commissioner “for duties she is constitutionally prohibited from discharging.” As a lawyer, Aleshire pays state taxes and fees and has “a legally protectable interest in seeing that his tax funds are not spent illegally.”
Jones has said the move to San Antonio didn’t require her to leave the commission, and in an effort to quiet the issue and sort things out, she asked Attorney General Greg Abbott for his official opinion on the matter. That request is pending.
Her campaign spokesman, Patrick Isenberg, called the lawsuit a political trick. “This does not come as a surprise as Bill Aleshire is an activist Democrat and donor of Jeff Wentworth’s and Buck Wood is Wentworth’s Democrat attorney who also works on behalf of the Texas Trial Lawyer’s Association,” Isenberg said in an email. “Why is Wentworth so afraid to face Elizabeth Ames Jones in the Republican primary?”