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Advisory Council on Ethics (ACE)

Advisory Council on Ethics Opinion No. 11

April 19, 2000

Can Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees run for an elective office?

Article XVI Section 40 of the Texas Constitution states "no person shall hold or exercise at the same time, more than one civil office of emolument." TDCJ employees, with the possible exception of the Executive Director or Chairperson of the Board, do not hold "civil offices". However, a proviso to Article SVI Section 40 states, "State employees or other individuals who receive all or part of their compensation either directly or indirectly from funds of the State of Texas and who are not state officers, shall not be barred from serving as members of the governing bodies of school districts, cities, towns, or other local governmental districts; provided, however that such state employees or other individuals shall receive no salary for serving as members of such governing bodies." This is state law. Therefore, if a TDCJ employee wants to run for elective office, it is okay. However they cannot be paid as long as their position is considered part of the local governing body.

It is important to follow the guidelines set forth by PD-23 (Employee Political Activity and Participation in Employee Organizations) if planning to run for an elective office. PD-23 contains the following prohibitions: "Employees shall not use any state resources to influence the outcome of any election or the passage or defeat of any legislative measure…Agency premises are nonpublic forums, therefore, while employees (both on and off duty) are on agency premises, they are prohibited from distributing, displaying, or wearing any form of political campaign materials."

Following these guidelines, if a TDCJ employee chooses to run for an elective office, they cannot use state copiers to print fliers, cannot place their campaign materials on the employee bulletin board, cannot pass out campaign literature on the job, and cannot use any state resources or time to assist in their campaign for office. This includes asking or urging their co-workers to vote for them. Any use of state resources, time, or property is a violation of Texas law and TDCJ policy. TDCJ employees who choose to run for an elective office should always remember their duties to TDCJ must take priority at all times. Any conflicts of duty have to be resolved so that TDCJ comes first and the office second.