Farenthold resigns as port authority lobbyist, amid questions about the legality of his hiring

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(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Former Texas congressman Blake Farenthold has resigned his $160,000-a-year job lobbying for the Calhoun Port Authority, a month after a local newspaper asked an appeals court to cut him off, alleging his hiring was illegal.

Charles Hausmann, executive director of the port authority on Lavaca Bay, about 130 miles southwest of Galveston, announced the resignation at the board’s meeting today, according to the Victoria Advocate.

The Calhoun Port Authority is an economic development liaison for Calhoun County and international cargo businesses.

The Advocate has been fighting in court for more than eight months to get documents from the port authority pertaining to the hiring of Farenthold. The paper has also challenged the authority’s refusal to make public the details of its retirement plan and travel expenses for board members, The Texas Monitor reported in October.

Neither Hausmann nor board members would speak to the Advocate reporter about the resignation letter submitted by Farentold on Jan. 4, other than to say he left “to pursue other opportunities,” according to the newspaper.

Hausmann declined to provide the reporter with a copy of the resignation letter. The paper has made a formal request for a copy under the Texas Public Information Act.

Board members contacted by The Texas Monitor Thursday did not return calls requesting comment. Officials for the Victoria Advocate did not respond to an email request before this story was published.

The Advocate is still waiting for a response from the state’s 13th Court of Appeals to the paper’s request in early December for an order to stop the port authority from making monthly payments of more than $13,000 to Farenthold.

Advocate attorney John Griffin Jr. said he thought it unfair that taxpayers should continue to underwrite payments that the newspaper contends are illegal because the port authority failed to notify the public it intended to hire Farenthold.

“No one has ever explained in any meaningful way to the public how it’s in the best interest … to hire this man for this job at $160,000 a year,” Griffin told The Texas Monitor in June.

The port board hired Farenthold on May 9 for a full-time lobbying job it had created for him. A month earlier, Farenthold had resigned his congressional seat after it became public that taxpayers, rather than the congressman himself, had paid $84,000 to settle a lawsuit for sexual harassment filed against him in 2014 by his former communications director.

Months after the lawsuit drew national attention, the port authority board refused to provide any information about its retirement plan to the paper because, Board Chairman Randy Boyd said, the board was named in the paper’s lawsuit.

Undaunted, the paper used records obtained through the Texas Public Information Act to report that the board, which has no responsibilities for the day-to-day operations of the port, had created a retirement plan for itself.

Over a decade, the board also paid its members at least $630,000 in meeting stipends and about $300,000 for travel expense reimbursements.

Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].

 

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