It was an uncomfortable moment in public management in September when Texas Railroad Commissioner board chair Christi Craddick announced that the agency’s executive director, Kimberly Corley, would no longer serve in that position.
Craddick, during a live stream of the meeting, said that Corley was given the option to resign before the meeting. Craddick’s colleague Ryan Sitton was stunned and the two jousted over matter for nine minutes in an exchange preserved on YouTube.
Now, state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, contends in a letter to the Attorney General’s office that Craddick had no standing in determining the fate of Corley, and seeks an official AG opinion on the matter.
My understanding is that Railroad Commission practice is to have representatives from the General Counsel’s office present in meetings where an employment termination is to occur. Chairman Craddick’ s September 18th meeting with Ms. Corley included two members of the General Counsel’s office.
All three Railroad Commissioners voted to hire the former Executive Director. The Commission has not delegated to the Chair authority to fire the Executive Director. Given these facts, does the full Commission have to vote to terminate the Executive Director under the administrative laws of the State of Texas which govern the Railroad Commission?
Craddick, the daughter of former state House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, is accustomed to controversy.
In 2002, her father was accused of pushing a bill that would provide health insurance for his daughter, who was then a lobbyist. He also paid his daughter over $600,000 in a seven-year period starting in 2003 as a consultant to his campaigns. An ethics complaint filed by a Houston blogger was not sustained.
In 2012, as his daughter was running for a post as a Railroad Commissioner, Tom Craddick donated $265,000 of his own campaign funds to her campaign. He also paid for some of her flights and other expenses related to her campaign through in-kind contributions.
Christi Craddick is also targeted by a gadfly website, CrookedChristi.net, which contends her own mineral development company has benefitted from decisions she has been part of at the Railroad Commission.
Anchia’s inquiry concerns the handling of the apparent dismissal of Corley and a potential violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Corley told energy newsgroup E&E News that she was called to Craddick’s office and found her with two commission lawyers.
According to the story, Craddick gave her the choice of resigning or she would be fired.
“She said, ‘We’re just moving in a different direction,'” Corley told E&E News.
During the public meeting following the firing, Craddick responded to Sitton’s question regarding Corley’s stepping down: “She may decide not to make that choice, she may show up to work today.”
Hiring and firing at public bodies in the upper levels are required to be done in public. Corley was being paid $180,000 a year. Christi Craddick’s annual salary is $140,937.
The Attorney General’s office declined to consider the possible open meetings violation after a request from Sitton. It claimed that only a board chair can request such a ruling — unlikely in this case, as Craddick, accused of wrongdoing, is the chair.
Anchia’s letter to the AG has much the same language as Sitton’s and cites the same section of the open meetings act in questioning Craddick’s action.
Both also stated, “If any one Railroad Commissioner can call any employee into their office at any time and give them a “choice” of “resign or you’ll be fired,” this deficiency must be addressed…. My strong belief is all Commissioners should be involved in these types of decisions in a properly posted and public, transparent setting. I am anxious to know if mistakes were made so the Commission does not make them again in the future.”
Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].