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Complaint against Yeats dismissed

May 8, 2012

The Texas Ethics Commission has dismissed the complaint filed against 118th District Court Judge Timothy Yeats, which alleged campaign finance violations committed during his 2010 bid for the bench.

Yeats was notified by mail this week the complaint — filed in February by Jim Doyle of Conroe, Texas, a member of the Texas Ethics Advisory Board, a political action committee (PAC) — had been dismissed and no fines or penalties were assessed.

The complaint made two allegations, the first being Yeats misidentified several of the contributors to his campaign as “self employed,” although the individuals do, in fact, own their own businesses. The second allegations — and the more serious — claims Yeats converted campaign funds to personal funds.

“I listed the name and address of every contributor,” Yeats said. “On several occasions, I described the occupation of an individual who owned their own business or law firm as 'self-employed.' The complainant contends that I should have listed the name of the business or law firm instead of designating the individual as 'self-employed.

“The allegation which has garnered the most attention is the allegation that I converted campaign contributions to personal use. This allegation is simply false. I properly reserved the right to reimburse myself for campaign expenditures from personal funds. Both of these complaints were, at the most, technical complaints based on typographical errors that, obviously, were not meant to be misleading in the least.”

Yeats said he signed an “assurance of voluntary compliance” for the commission in which he acknowledges the requirements of the Texas Election Code as they pertain to campaign finance reporting, as well as filed an amended finance report correcting the errors identified in the course of the complaint.

“The ethics commission did not tell me to file the amended report, that was something I decided to do on my own,” Yeats said. “I'm just pleased to have this behind me. You know that when you run for a public office, things like this can happen. However, I feel confident the ethics commission's dismissal will put an end to this matter.”

While the commission's decision may allow Yeats to move on, it will likely have its hands full for quite a while, as members of the Texas Ethics Advisory Board PAC have made it quite clear they have no intentions of slowing down.

According to advisory board spokesperson William B. Elmer, the group had more than 70 complaints pending against Texas officials earlier this year, targeting Democratic candidates.

“Obviously, we can't look at them all, but we look at a lot of them,” Elmer said with a laugh from his home in Huntsville, Texas, shortly after the complaint was filed against Yeats in February. “We primarily focus on campaign finance reports from Democratic candidates because those are the ones most likely to contain the kind of big spending we're targeting. In Judge Yeats' case, however, we know he's a Republican, but as a judge we hold him to a higher standard.”

The PAC has also filed complaints in the past against Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, Upshur County District Judge Lauren Parish, 79th District Judge Richard Terrell and a slew of other candidates.

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