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Criminal indictments filed against Denton ISD administrators

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(The Center Square) – Criminal charges have been filed against two Denton Independent School District administrators after the ISD was sued by the Texas Attorney General’s Office in February for allegedly committing “illegal electioneering” using taxpayer money.

Denton ISD was the first of seven ISDs sued by the Texas attorney general. On Feb. 22, it was sued “for illegal electioneering by using taxpayer-funded resources to stump for specific candidates during an election.”

The lawsuit states that on Feb. 5, DISD Alexander Elementary School principal Lindsey Lujan sent an email to all staff members encouraging them to vote for candidates who “support public schools” and who are against “vouchers,” or school choice. She used a Denton ISD email to distribute voting guidelines to employees, including a list of all candidates who support or oppose public school education, identifying all Democrats as friendly and all Republicans as unfriendly.

Her husband, Jesus Lujan, the principal of Borman Elementary School in DISD, also sent an email from his school email address encouraging employees to vote in the Republican primary against school choice candidates regardless of their party affiliation.

Their emails violate the Texas Election Code, the OAG argues, which prohibits the use of “state or local funds or other resources of the district to electioneer for or against any candidate, measure, or political party.”

On Feb. 27, the Liberty Justice Center wrote a demand letter to Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson requesting an investigation. It includes affidavits signed by registered voters in the county alleging the Lujans violated state election law.

According to county court records, both Lindsey and Jesus Lujan were indicted on April 4; their arraignment is scheduled May 13. The charges are “unlawful use of internal mail system for political advertising,” a violation of Texas Election Code and a Class A misdemeanor.

The OAG also sued Huffman ISD for “illegal electioneering” on March 1, alleging Huffman ISD Superintendent Benny Soileau instructed faculty and staff to vote a particular way. This included encouraging them to vote in the Republican primary against challengers of 16 Republican House incumbents who voted to block a school choice measure last year. He also allegedly said a Huffman ISD administrator would distribute the list of candidates they needed to support.

The Liberty Justice Center also sent a demand letter related to this case to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg requesting an investigation into allegations of illegal electioneering. It also includes affidavits from registered voters in the county. The DA’s office forwarded the information to its Public Corruption Division, it said.

LJC Education Freedom Attorney Dean McGee said the administrators “violated state law – and voters’ trust – by abusing their positions of authority” and LJC was proud to stand with voters to demand an investigation.

If prosecutors had failed to launch an investigation, LJC said it would pursue further legal action through a writ of mandamus, compelling them to carry out their duty under the law.

Because the OAG falls under the executive branch and not the judicial branch, the Texas Constitution prohibits it from criminally prosecuting Election Code violations, as recently ruled by the state Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas v. Stephens. The constitution requires prosecutions of state election code violations to be conducted by district attorneys in the counties where the alleged crime occurred. The Texas Constitution and state law does not prevent the OAG from seeking civil injunctive relief to get a court order to prohibit school districts from attempting to influence elections.

On the March 5 Republican primary, the majority of school choice candidates won their races. In four key races, among others, pro-school choice candidates face runoff elections on May 28.

Gov. Greg Abbott has endorsed pro-school choice candidates in his push to bring school choice to Texas in the next legislative session. Key school choice bills failed in the regular and special legislative sessions last year after 21 House Republicans opposed them. Of the 21, five retired and 16 ran for reelection.

In the primary, six anti-school choice incumbents lost outright. Four were forced into a runoff election by pro-school choice candidates who were all endorsed by Abbott. Four pro-school choice candidates won their races in open seats.

The primary election, and likely the runoff election, confirmed the findings of a University of Houston poll of Republican primary voters. The majority, 60%, said they were less likely to vote for an incumbent who voted against school choice; 58% living in rural counties said they would vote against an opponent of school choice; 64% said they want the Texas legislature to pass a school choice bill that will benefit all Texas families.