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Lawmaker Says Public Integrity Unit Will Likely Move Out Of Travis County DA Office

Ryan Poppe | Texas Public Radio

The state’s public integrity unit has filed a request with the governor’s office and legislative budget officials to restore funding to the agency in 2015.

But that effort may not be possible unless the unit is moved out of the Travis County district attorney’s office, which is headed by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, said she would like to see the unit moved in 2015. In a statement, Nelson wrote that "we need to move the unit somewhere less partisan."

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said partisanship has nothing to do with the location of the public integrity unit.

“It’s the seat of state government. It has been there historically because that’s the prosecutor that oversees state government if there are violations of the law,” Whitmire said.

The public integrity unit was created in 1982 and Whitmire said it seems inevitable that it will be moved.

“The chances of its survival in its current form -- it’s going to be difficult. But if I worked there I probably would be considering some alternative jobs," Whitmire said.

Whitmire and Democrats remain firm the public integrity unit needs to remain an independent agency and not become absorbed by the Texas Attorney General’s office.

“And let me emphasize if the legislative leadership thinks that they are going to do away with the public integrity unit division they got another thing coming," Whitmire said. "They may make it more difficult but they’re not going away with it.”