Liberty Institute Responds to Eric Opiela About Ethics Hearing

The Liberty Institute released a scathing press release claiming that the recent Texas House Ethics Committee meeting was illegal.

The Liberty Institute says that the hearing was illegal since Hughes testified under oath and Phillips did not.  The Liberty Institute cites Texas Government Code, section 301.022,  which states that “All legislative committees shall require witnesses to give testimony under oath, subject to the penalties of perjury.”  The law further states, “The oath required by this section may be waived by any committee except a general investigating committee.”

The full Liberty Institute press release can be found here.

Eric Opiela former Republican Party of Texas Executive Director has responded to the Liberty Institute’s claims.  Here is the relevant information per Eric.

Phillips was a member of the committee and was already sworn. Hughes wasn’t and needed to be. Much ado about nothing.

Since the Government Code requires that all testimony before the committee be sworn, the members were sworn at the beginning of session, and remained sworn at this hearing. Once one gives an oath to tell the truth, they have sworn to tell the truth. Period. Phillips recused himself from voting since he was the accused. He didn’t recuse himself from telling the truth.

Hughes was not a member of the committee, hence the need to be sworn.

Jonathan Saenz is the Director of Legislative Affairs & Attorney with the Liberty Institute and he has this to say about Eric’s statement.

The Texas Government Code doesn’t state that any previous oath satisfies the oath requirement for witness testimony. An oath must be administered to each witness giving testimony.  There was no attempt to administer the oath to Rep. Larry Phillips.

I personally attended the hearing and recorded it.  There was also no attempt made to put Rep. Hughes under oath.

After the committee and witnesses emerged from the three (3) hour private meeting/executive session, Chairman Hopson made some introductory remarks and then asked Rep. Hughes to “proceed”.  Chairman Hopson made no attempt to administer the oath to testifying witnesses. Rep. Hughes then told the committee that he asked to be put under oath during the executive session, and that he would also make the same request in the public session.  Rep. Larry Phillips testified after Rep. Hughes and he was not administered the oath.

Additionally, Rep. Larry Phillips was not testifying as a Committee member.  Rep. Phillips was appearing and testifying as a witness.  He had to specifically recuse himself as a Committee member-thus any claimed past oath related to his status as a Committee member would be irrelevant.

The Nov. 23rd hearing itself was an embarrassment. Rep. Larry Phillips, was asked only 4 questions: (1) were you speaking on behalf of anyone else, (2) were you directed to speak by anyone, (3) was there any recording of the phone conversation, and (4) was anyone else a part of the conversation between Rep. Phillips and Rep. Hughes.

Rep. Larry Phillips was never asked what exactly he did say to Rep. Hughes or whether Rep. Larry Phillips mentioned the specific names that were being planned to “get rid of” that Rep. Hughes discussed in his November 10th letter, or any other number of a myriad of questions he could have been asked.

Last,  I am wondering if Rep. Larry Phillips was asked any questions at all or of substance during the closed/executive portion of the hearing that was closed off from the media and public.  I guess we are left to wonder at this point.  Speaking of the media, it is outrageous how the media has made almost no attempt to find out more about information surrounding this issue that was so important that it necessitated an investigative hearing just two days before Thanksgiving.

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