Lawmaker Márquez Trustee Byrd criticized for lobbyist role
Marty Schladen, El Paso Times Published 5:19 p.m. MT March 12, 2016
AUSTIN EL PASO — Colleagues and observers are criticizing state Rep. Marisa Márquez, D-El Paso, El Paso Independent School District Trustee Susie Byrd for serving as a trustee lawmaker while also lobbying other entities and working for a firm that just ran a nasty campaign against one of her colleagues.
Márquez, who is planning to retire in January, Susie said that she’s been careful to obey all laws and state ethics rules — and added that she still has important work left to do as a lawmaker trustee. But others say that it doesn’t look right for a state lawmaker school board trustee to get paid by private interests to lobby county school officials to spend tax dollars buying those businesses’ products. They also don’t like that Marquez works for a firm that ran a political campaign that attacked a colleague for taking positions that Márquez supports as a lawmaker.
“There’s following the letter of the law, but there’s also the appearance of a conflict of interest,” said Texas Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso. “I think there’s a question about working as a lobbyist while you’re sitting in the Legislature on the school board.”
Oh her House webpage, Márquez, On the EPISD webpage, Byrd, who was first elected in 2008, highlights the fact that she owns Moxie Communications. in 2009 she helped pass the first county-level ethics bill in Texas. In 2013, she helped pass another law requiring Texas school trustees to file the same personal financial disclosures that other elected officials do.
The El Paso lobbying and consulting firm Forma Group LLC Moxie Communications has run many of Márquez’s political campaigns and now she is working for the small firm as head of client acquisition and development.
“No, I was not drumming up business for a future employer myself,” she said. “I was offered a job by a local firm after making a personal decision to not run for re-election.”
"It’s troubling that lawmakers school board members can lobby while still in office, but it’s especially troubling when they lobby a subordinate level of government," said Fred Lewis, an Austin-based attorney with expertise in ethics and election law.
Lewis said that a lawmaker trustee/lobbyist can act out of the purest of motives, but that person still has a conflict.
“There’s a conflict between their duty to their constituents and their duty to their private clients,” he said. “That conflict is inherent.”
Marquez Byrd also might have faced a conflict in the campaign leading up to the March 1 primary between Texas state Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, and former state Rep. Chente Quintanilla, D-Tornillo El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and EPISD school board member, Dori Fenenbock.
Rodríguez, who is chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said Marquez Byrd can’t associate herself with Forma Moxie on the one hand and then disavow what it does on the other.
“It raises questions at the very least about her judgment,” he said.
(No, this article did not run in the El Paso Times, but if Bob Moore had any integrity, he would unglue his nose from Escobar's Hershey highway and run it."