Sometime today the Collin County grand jury should receive a letter requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the purchase and sale of the Collin Central Appraisal District headquarters site, a deal that netted six or seven figures for District Attorney Greg Willis, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and their business partners. Let’s hope that shady transaction finally gets the attention that it deserves.
I originally blogged about the CCAD site on March 23, 2015. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the Lone Star Project later sent a letter to the grand jury on May 12, 2015 after it uncovered new details about the transaction. The letter was sent in care of Assistant DA Gail Falco Leyko. On June 25, 2015, after I learned about the Lone Start Project letter, I sent an email to Ms. Leyko asking whether the letter had been delivered. On the same day, Judge Chris Oldner signed an order sealing the names of grand jurors.
I later learned that Ms. Leyko had not delivered the letter to grand jurors, and as I explained in my July 13, 2015 and July 14, 2015 posts, it appeared that the DA’s office was trying to block access to the grand jury by getting Judge Oldner and Judge John Roach, Jr. to seal the names of grand jurors. In other words, it appeared that Ms. Leyko was trying to protect her boss from a grand jury investigation, and for good reason.
You will recall that I started writing letters to grand jurors back in March when it became obvious that Mr. Willis and/or his staff were trying to block any investigation of Mr. Paxton, who was not only Mr. Willis’s business partner but a personal friend since college. The grand jury ultimately went rogue, forcing Mr. Willis to step aside and ultimately leading to the indictment of Mr. Paxton on securities charges.
In an August 10, 2015 letter, Judge Oldner wrote, “[i]f any credible person has information concerning an offense liable to indictment, I will insure the information is made available to the grand jury.” I finally got around to sending a letter in care of Judge Oldner last week, and his assistant confirmed receipt yesterday. As I explained in that letter, First Assistant DA Bill Dobiyanski had previously defended the DA’s office by claiming that, rather than providing the Lone Star Project letter to the grand jury, it had provided the letter to the Texas Rangers and the special prosecutors assigned to the Paxton case, Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer.
As Mr. Dobiyanski would have known, however, the special prosecutors had no jurisdiction to investigate the real estate transactions, because their appointments were limited to violations of the Texas Securities Act. Mr. Dobiyanski also would have known that DPS policy prevents the Texas Rangers from investigating a public official unless the local district attorney first agrees in writing to prosecute any offenses that the Rangers find. In other words, Mr. Willis would first have to agree in writing that he would prosecute himself if the Rangers uncovered any crimes in which he participated. Obviously, Mr. Willis has never made any such commitment.
A grand jury can demand a special prosecutor if it intends to investigate the DA, according to one Texas appellate court, and under those circumstances the trial judge is obligated to appoint a special prosecutor. Since Mr. Willis will not recuse himself despite his conflicts of interest, let’s hope the grand jury goes rogue again and makes that decision for him.