Texas House ethics committee leaders say Rep. Jim Murphy’s actions could prompt investigation

Screen shot of Facebook.com/Jim Murphy's post

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After an investigation by KPRC, members of the Texas House ethics committee said state Rep Jim Murphy could soon be under the microscope for allegedly breaking Texas law.

Murphy is employed as the state representative for Houston’s 133rd district, but it’s his other job drawing negative attention:

According to contract documents, Murphy also reportedly draws in over $26,000 per month through an agreement with Houston’s Westchase District, a business district and neighborhood on Houston’s west side.

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Under the contract, he’s listed as a consultant, but in Westchase’s promotional releases, he’s named as General Manager.

KPRC contends Murphy’s job with Westchase is in conflict with a Texas state law which proivdes, “No member of the Legislature may hold any other office or position of profit, except as a notary public.”

Murphy also reportedly receives bonuses from the district whenever he can secure $1 million or more in funding from the Texas Department of Transportation for construction projects, some as high as $6,000.

Analysts say this could create conflicts of interest if Murphy wanted to leverage his position in Austin for favor from state agencies, like TxDOT, according to KPRC.

Murphy’s legislative district also overlaps Westchase, which analysts also say could create additional conflicts of interest in his role as a legislator.

When approached by KPRC reporters on the topic of Murphy’s dual employment, Rep. Sarah Davis, chair of the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee, said, “I think it’s definitely something we are going to be taking a look at.”

“We will absolutely look at it. I have no problem doing investigations,” she said further.

For his part, Murphy didn’t deny the fact he makes a six-figure salary through his contract with Westchase, and maintains everything about his employment is aboveboard in a Facebook post regarding the series of stories by KPRC.

Murphy wrote the following on social media:

“Most Texas Legislators, who are paid just $600 a month for our service, have other jobs to support our families. I am proud of my association with Westchase, which goes back to 1986 and remains one of the most productive economic engines in West Houston, bringing investment and job creation to the area.”

He went on to call the investigation a “salacious hit piece” and “manufactured outrage,” adding he made sure everything to be legal and in order before he started the position:

“Before I ever took office, I sought legal advice from the Attorney General in 2005 to establish clear boundaries for my work. I want you to rest assured that we have always strictly adhered to those guidelines.”

Ethics attorney Buck Wood, who spoke with KPRC as part of their investigation, said he see it differently, however:

“Under that contract, he is being retained as a lobbyist, whether he likes it or not,” Wood said in an interview.

Texas law also specifies working as a lobbyist is illegal for state representatives.

Rep. Murphy’s employment, while not illegal on its face, appears to be in a murky area, and may be headed for a hearing with the House Ethics Committee, reports show.

When asked about Murphy’s bonuses specifically, Rep. Davis said, “I think what we would need to do is have a hearing on it.”

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