By Sheri Edwards
After reviewing all the facts and speaking with the parties involved, the question has remained in my mind. Did Clear Creek ISD violate the law by knowingly filing a complaint against Lianne Russell, the campaign manager who they accuse of “false impersonation” of a CCISD representative to Harris County Elections Division?
The facts are clear that CCISD was notified by HCED that no criminal intent on the part of Ms. Russell ever occurred and they still chose to file a criminal complaint with the Harris County District Attorney’s office.
§ 37.08. FALSE REPORT TO PEACE OFFICER OR LAW ENFORCEMENT
EMPLOYEE. (a) A person commits an offense if, with intent to deceive, he knowingly makes a false statement that is material to a criminal investigation and makes the statement to:
(1) a peace officer conducting the investigation; or
(2) any employee of a law enforcement agency that is
authorized by the agency to conduct the investigation and that the actor knows is conducting the investigation.
Upon questioning, we have learned two very important items worth noting.
1. When learning that live ballots were actually in their possession, Ms. Russell immediately contacted the League City Police Department and attempted to return them.
2. The signature page that Ms. Russell signed was completed by another person who asked Ms. Russell to sign, which she did.
Understand that Mail-in Ballot applications are limited to 200 per person so it was not unexpected for Ms. Russell to sign a document stating that a number count of 160 was what she was being given.
Even still, the issue here is not to question Ms. Russell, after all, she has been exonerated by the Harris County Elections division. The issue here is whether or not CCISD actually committed a criminal act when they filed their complaint with the District Attorney. Knowing that Ms. Russell and the other citizen that was with her had not only not represented themselves as CCISD employees but have been actively educating the public on what is at stake in this upcoming election, they still chose to go after Ms. Russell, who is the Campaign Manager for a candidate running for CCISD Board of Trustees. While at the HCED office, Ms. Russell adamantly complained about the lack of recourse against CCISD and questioned the integrity of the election. Not only did Ms. Russell have ethics question but she was requesting how to complain about the hosting entity (CCISD) when they were the ones she had to complain to. Ms. Russell was given the name and number of an attorney at the Texas Secretary of State and instructed to contact them for assistance.
CCISD did not file the complaint against the other citizen who was in actual possession of the live ballots until Ms. Russell was notified of the mistake, at which time; Ms. Russell obtained the documents from the other citizen in an effort to return them the proper authorities immediately. They chose Ms. Russell because of her signature on the number count sheet. Common sense applies that if Ms. Russell was actually misrepresenting herself as a CCISD employee, she would not have given her correct name and contact information nor would she have had a conversation with the HCED concerning election issues against CCISD.
Using the full weight of their power as the hosting entity of the upcoming bond election May 11, CCISD had 367 million reasons to stop Ms. Russell. As an organization with a full legal team at their discretion, this has become the story of a modern day “David and Goliath”. It has also opened the eyes of the public at the power that CCISD wields, so much power that CCISD gets to host their own election, control the ballots, count the ballots, and police the ballots.
The question remains unanswered. Was it a crime for CCISD to knowingly file a criminal complaint against a citizen who they had full knowledge had not committed a crime for a potential financial gain of 367 Million Dollars? We will possibly never know the answer as CCISD is well within their rights as the hosting entity under the current laws for Special elections.
Representative Rick Miller has filed HB 3078 in an effort to stop some of the issues that Ms. Russell complained about to HCED. Contact your local State Representative and ask them to support HB 3078. Until we secure election integrity, citizens like Ms. Russell are exposed to the unethical practices of School Boards across Texas.