As a city official in Austin, you hold the public trust in the palms of your hands. With that trust comes great responsibility, as well as a good deal of scrutiny. Many of those that we here at Wright and Greenhill PC have worked with in the past have seen that scrutiny led to public criticism due to misinterpretations or misrepresentations of their actions. One notion that it seems that the public is persistently on guard against is the appearance of improper influence. Your dealings with certain parties and/or constituents (particularly in cases where money is exchanged) can often lead to baseless accusations of bribery.
Understanding how Texas legally defines bribery may help in defending yourself as well as the reputation of your office from such allegations. According to the Texas Penal Code, only the following scenarios meet the state’s definition of bribery:
- You soliciting, accepting or agreeing to accept any benefit in exchange for a favorable opinion, decision, recommendation, vote or exercise of discretion
- You soliciting, accepting or agreeing to accept any benefit in exchange for influence in an administrative or judicial proceeding
- You soliciting, accepting or agreeing to accept any benefit in exchange for a violation of the legal duties of your office
- You soliciting, accepting or agreeing to accept any political contribution with the promise of reciprocal action when in office
Keep in mind that a benefit does not actually have to be received in order to qualify as a violation under the state’s bribery statutes.
Proper recordkeeping can go a long way in answering accusations of bribery. Documentation detailing the nature of an agreement or transaction might easily eliminate any appearance of impropriety. More information on answering bribery accusations can be found here on our site.