LUBBOCK, Texas — Campaign finance records showed Mayor Dan Pope and two City Councilmen donated money to incumbent Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish in his race for reelection against challenger Gary Boren. The move drew both criticism and defense.
Boren and Parrish face off in the Republican March Primary.
Councilman Steve Massengale donated $1,000, and Councilman Randy Christian (along with his wife) donated $2,000 to Parrish. Christian was listed as the Director of Marketing for the company, where he is employed, while Massengale was listed as the CEO of the company he founded.
Pope donated $2,000. And while most other donors had to list their address, Pope was allowed to black his out from public view. He listed his principal occupation as mayor and his employer as the City of Lubbock on the donation document.
Pope is listed on the Tyler Technology website as an “independent director” since 2016, which is the same year he was elected Mayor. In September, he sold nearly $350,000 worth of Tyler Technology Stock and still owned $1.2 million worth at that time, according to SEC records.
According to the 2021 proxy statement, Pope was paid $76,000 in fees or cash and $249,921 in stock options or stock awards. It was a total of $325,921 during the year.
Tyler is the same company that provided software to Lubbock County, which went online in the first week of August. Tyler claims its software works as intended.
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- “An absolute debacle:” As lawyers say county software issues still persist, Tyler Technologies defends product
- County IT director updates commissioners on software issues
Negative reaction to the donations:
“It’s unprecedented in Lubbock history,” said Paul R. Beane, a former member of the Lubbock City Council and longtime broadcaster. “I’ve been here 50 years. I can never remember the city council getting involved in another election.”
“Why are you so desperate to carry Gary Boren out of the courthouse?” Beane asked rhetorically.
“I wonder why three members of the city council are sticking their nose into county business,” Beane added.
What if county commissioners did it to the city candidates?
“Certainly, it’s the same,” Bean said.
“It certainly begs the question,” said Dwight McDonald, who is both a defense lawyer and part-time magistrate. “People could certainly see that as improper or questionable.”
“The folks who have a great deal of involvement with Tyler [Technologies] are now connected with our county judge, who was the only person in charge of the conversion to Tyler and the IT department.”
“It begs the question. Why?”
“It might be proper,” McDonald said. “It’s too close for comfort.”
Defending the donations:
Christian said of his donation, “Curtis and I have known each other for 40 years. Curtis has been very a Christian brother. During my struggles, he’s always been there.”
For Christian, it was simply a matter of friendship. Nothing more, he said.
“Curtis and I have been friends for several years,” Massengale said. “I believe Curtis is in the job for the right reasons. His focus on bridging the connection between the city and the county has been good for the community. Stephanie and I are proud to support Curtis for his reelection.”
“It’s no big deal,” said local attorney Fernando Bustos, who was once the Vice Chair of the Lubbock County Republican Party.
Concerning elected officials getting involved in other races, Bustos said, “It happens all the time.”
“They have free speech rights to speak on matters of public concern. Just because they’re a public official doesn’t mean they can’t speak on local races,” Bustos said.
Bustos made reference to Donald Trump as just one example, saying he endorses candidates in various races all over the country.
The two candidates:
But what do the two candidates say?
“My impression is this is very unusual,” Boren said. “Anyone has a right to give money to whoever they want to. But, I‘ve never seen anyone from the city give to county races. My perception is this. If you smell something fishy, there’s a dead fish around.”
Boren added, “I don’t think the citizens of Lubbock and Lubbock County want city hall running our criminal justice system, the sheriff, the jail, the DA’s office, and the court.”
“They want the city doing what they’re supposed to do like helping businesses instead of shutting them down — fixing our roads, taking care our utilities and protecting us from the crime issue we have today,” Boren said. “I don’t think they want the city to take over the commissioner’s court.”
“I’m not concerned about that,” Parrish responded.
“You’re going to get campaign donations for all kinds of reasons. It doesn’t influence your vote,” Parrish said.
“For me, the campaign donation is not for influence, but it is an acknowledgment of support for the campaign of the individual. It’s an acknowledgment that I’m doing a good job,” Parrish said. “It’s not for something in return. They don’t have the right to expect something in return.”
Burrows also donated to Parrish, and he said, “That doesn’t mean he gets to influence county government.”
Early voting in the March Primary between Boren and Parrish starts February 14.
Dan Pope was given the chance to comment and has not responded yet. If he later chooses to comment, this article will be updated.