A senior district judge is examining the merits of a complaint made by a political watchdog group against Gov. Rick Perry. The group claims Perry violated a number of laws when he threatened to defund the Public Integrity Unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to step down.
Lehmberg, targeted following a drunken driving arrest, did not step down. Perry made good on his threat and cut more than $7 million from the investigative office.
If the judge decides the complaint stands on legal ground, a special prosecutor could be appointed the case, and Perry could find himself defending his actions in a court of law.
The complaint was filed by a well known political watchdog group, Texans for Public Justice.
The group's director, Craig McDonald, explained why, in his opinion, Perry had no legal right to kill funding for Travis County's Public Integrity Unit.
"When we heard this, we were a little bit outraged,” McDonald said. Why is the governor stepping into the business of Travis County?”
McDonald alleges Perry’s threat amounts to coercion, bribery, abuse of power and official oppression.
"The governor actually crossed the line from bullying into illegal behavior,” he said. “These statutes say the governor cannot use his office in an official capacity to threaten an action or coerce an action of another person."
In an interview last week, Rosemary Lehmberg agreed with that sentiment.
"It is not Rick Perry's job to fire me or to remove me,” she said. “It's unconstitutional and it's probably illegal what he did by threatening the veto, then doing the veto."
Officials close to the case say a special prosecutor could be appointed as early as next week.