AUSTIN (KXAN) – Prior to last year’s Public Integrity Unit funding veto, Governor Rick Perry spoke with local defense attorney Mindy Montford about possibly replacing Rosemary Lehmberg. The veto has landed Perry under felony indictments charging he tried to force Lehmberg out of office. Had Lehmberg resigned, Perry would have appointed her replacement. But Lehmberg remained in office and now the conversation between Montford and Perry could play a role in the criminal case against the Governor.
“It puts the Governor a little more deeply involved than where he or his dream team of attorneys have put him so far,” said Craig McDonald with Texans for Public Justice, the group that filed the initial complaint which led to the indictment.
McDonald believes the conversation shows Perry did not act because of Lehmberg’s Driving While Intoxicated arrest, but was instead interested in taking control of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. However, the Governor’s supporters will likely point out Montford has run as a Democrat in two prior elections, one in 2008 for district attorney and again in 2010 for district judge.
However, Perry and the Montford family have a history. The Governor supported Mindy’s father John to become University of Texas Chancellor, a position which ultimately went to Francisco Cigarroa. Debra Montford, John’s wife, was also appointed by Perry to the Texas Tech Board of Regents.
“Rather than partisan political tags, I think she can more accurately be labeled as a Rick Perry friend,” said McDonald about Mindy Montford.
Montford has consistently voted in democratic primaries and released the following statement to KXAN:
“I received an unexpected phone call from Governor Perry in June 2013. He expressed to me in general terms that he did not believe state resources should be used to fund the Public Integrity Unit while Rosemary Lehmberg remained in office. He asked if I would be interested in being appointed to the position in the event Rosemary Lehmberg resigned from office. I told him I was honored and expressed my gratitude to him for considering me. I also recall expressing my surprise that he would consider a Democrat for the position. He indicated to me that he felt I had the right qualifications for the position. He told me that he did not need an answer at that time and, shortly thereafter, we ended the call. I have not spoken to the Governor or anyone in his office since that day about this matter.”
Rosemary Lehmberg defeated Montford in a run-off election in 2008. Prior to that election, Montford worked as a prosecutor in the Travis County District Attorney Office.