San Antonio attorney Michael McCrum on Aug. 19 took the oath of office to serve as an attorney pro tem to investigate allegations that Gov. Rick Perry committed crimes when he vetoed funding for the Travis County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit.
Senior judge Bert Richardson, who is overseeing the matter, appointed McCrum to the position. He will take the role of a district attorney to investigate the allegations in a Complaint that alleges Perry threatened to veto the funding unless Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg resigned her position. The complaint, filed by advocacy group Texans for Public Justice, alleges Perry committed coercion of a public servant or voter, bribery, abuse of official capacity and official oppression.
"Certainly any time an elected public official is alleged to have done something wrong, political issues present themselves. I can tell you, however, that I'm not going to be pressured by politics in any way, shape or form," says McCrum, owner of McCrum Law Office.
In response to a telephone call to the Governor's Press Office seeking comment, spokesman Josh Havens writes in an email: "As he has done following every session he's been governor, Gov. Perry has exercised his constitutional veto authority through line item vetoes in the budget."
McCrum's job is to investigate and determine whether he believes Perry violated the law. If he does not find any violation, McCrum would dismiss the matter. If he believes Perry committed the alleged violations, he would prepare and present the case to a Travis County grand jury for indictment. If the grand jury returned an indictment, McCrum would be the prosecutor to represent the state in the trial.
"I walk into this without any pre-conceived notions or judgments. I think my responsibility is to look at the allegations made in the complaint, to look into the circumstances surrounding the matters raised in the complaint, and to take all actions I think are necessary and appropriate under the law," says McCrum.
From 1989 to 2000, McCrum was an assistant United States attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas. As chief of the Major Crimes Division, he says he supervised other prosecutors handling similar allegations and charges. McCrum now practices federal criminal defense, among other things, and he says he's defended other public officials who were under investigation or charged with crimes.
"I think I bring a broad-based perspective, which I think is part of the reason I was considered for this honor," he says, adding, "[I]t's a matter of great importance, not only to the governor himself, but also to the citizens of this state."
In late June, Lehmberg recused herself from handling the Complaint, creating the need for an attorney pro tem.
She was convicted of driving while intoxicated in April. In Perry's veto statement, he wrote that he wouldn't support funding for the Public Integrity Unit when the person in charge had "lost the public's confidence." [See " Investigation of Governor's Cut to DA's Public Integrity Unit," Texas Lawyer, July 29, 2013, page 5.]
"Since this is a pending investigation it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on that," says Lehmberg.