Texas attorney general issues ruling on Rep. Jim Murphy

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HOUSTON – Channel 2's investigation into state Rep. Jim Murphy nearly one year ago raised political eyebrows across the state.

At the time, Murphy admitted getting paid over $312,000 a year and bonuses for securing state funding for Westchase projects.

“I don’t work for free, Mario,” Murphy said during an interview with KPRC's Mario Diaz.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt’s reaction to what we uncovered was simple and candid: "I've never seen anything like this."

Murphy claimed he was an independent contractor for the Westchase District, routinely collecting two-taxpayer-funded checks, including over $312,000 per year for his position as general manager. He also earned bonuses for securing state funding for Westchase projects.

Noted ethics attorney Buck Wood was astonished when learning of the contracts: "Under that contract he is being retained as a lobbyist whether he likes it or not."

Last April, the chair of the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee, Rep. Sarah Davis, asked the state attorney general to decide if legislators could get paid by a local government unit for lobbying. She also wanted an opinion on whether a legislator could work as an independent contractor for a municipal management district.

The attorney general ruled on Tuesday there is no state law preventing a legislator from being a paid as a lobbyist for a unit of local government. As for the other issue, the AG ruled that a legislator cannot work as an employee of a municipal management district. Channel 2’s investigation found Murphy's status as general manager as well as other factors, made him an employee -- not an independent contractor.

So what happens now?

It's up to the Texas Ethics Commission to examine the facts and decide whether to bring ethical charges against Murphy for violating government code or local prosecutors to possibly bring criminal charges related to violations of the Texas Penal Code.

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