Eversole's Indictment Reflects Lack of Scrutiny Of Commissioners Court

Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole will return to federal court in February. The five-term Republican in precinct four was indicted this week on bribery and tax charges. As David Pitman reports, one local political analyst says Eversole's eventual trial may reveal some not-so-flattering details about how Harris County Commissioners Court operates.

Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein says he's amazed by how little attention Eversole's indictment received in the lead-up to the commissioner's appearance before a federal judge on Tuesday.

"County government is far less scrutinized than is city government.  And, as a result, even three years of an investigation and Mr. Eversole telling us he anticipated, or expected, any day for three years to be indicted, still comes as somewhat 'new' news to some people — and, I would imagine, the vast majority of voters in his Commissioners Court."

Stein says one reason for the lack of scrutiny is the size of the Commissioners Court.  Unlike the Houston City Council, which has 15 members, including the mayor, the Harris County Commissioners Court only has five, including Judge Ed Emmett.   Stein says, contrary to the way council operates, commissioners are not in the habit of challenging each other on what they want to do in their own districts.

"They always defer to each other.  The judge doesn't have the responsibilities the mayor does.  He doesn't really have a whole lot of authority, and probably, he'd even say, far less authority than each of the commissioners. There's no real way to have what I would call a kind of dialogue at Commissioners' Court.  Each of them runs their own individual, I would call it, government."

Stein says Eversole's attorney may use the commissioners' practice of deferring to one another as defense — claiming Eversole couldn't have done what he's accused of doing without the support, or at least the acquiescence, of his fellow commissioners.

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David Pitman

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