Farenthold resigns Port Lavaca job
The controversial legislative liaison for the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort has resigned. Former Congressman Blake Farenthold, who took the $160,000-a-year job after stepping down from his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, turned in a letter of resignation Jan. 4. The board announced the resignation at its Jan. 10 meeting.
Farenthold left his congressional seat in disgrace at the end of his fourth term when it was revealed that $84,000 in taxpayer money was used to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. A series of special and emergency elections were held to replace him in 2018. The District 27 seat is now held by Michael Cloud (R-Victoria).
The Port Lavaca hiring led to a lawsuit filed May 21, 2018, by the Victoria Advocate Publishing Co., charging that the board violated the Open Meetings Act.
The Victoria Advocate noted in its lawsuit that the port did not post the job, which didn’t even exist before Farenthold was hired, and did not let the public know the disgraced former congressman was being considered.
The board held a special meeting for May 24 to rehire Farenthold after the lawsuit was filed. Members returned from a closed board session to an open meeting to amend the employee handbook, adding legislative liaison to a list of port positions. They then voted to rehire the former legislator.
The news of Farenthold’s sexual harassment settlement broke in December 2017, just days after the congressman filed for re-election to what would have been his fifth term in office. He promised to repay the money to the U.S. Treasury, but when the pressure to resign did not let up, he dropped out of the race. He also announced that his attorney had advised him not to repay the money.
The Texas secretary of state agreed to take Farenthold’s name off the primary ballot, even though he resigned after the deadline to do so. The decision was made after both Republican and Democratic party leaders agreed not to protest the move.
Farenthold ultimately resigned on April 6 as the House Ethics Committee concluded two investigations into his conduct. The investigations were dropped because the committee only has jurisdiction over congressional members. The second investigation was into charges that the congressman had forced Capitol Hill staffers to work on his campaigns, which is illegal.
In a video statement on Facebook, Farenthold apologized for allowing a “workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional.”
According to a story in the Victoria Advocate, the lawsuit against the Port Lavaca board is still pending.
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