Updated to add comment from Gov. Perry

Did Gov. Rick Perry abuse his powers when he threatened to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refuses to step down? One watchdog group says yes and has filed a formal complaint with prosecutors.

Texans for Public Justice says Perry may have committed several crimes, including abuse of office, official oppression and coercion. “Governor Perry has no legal authority to remove the Travis Country District Attorney from her job. Threatening to take an official action against her office unless she voluntarily resigns is likely illegal,” said TPJ Director, Craig McDonald.

According to the complaint,

“Governor Perry’s official threats attempt to obtain two things that he can’t achieve through legal
democratic means. First, to remove an elected Democrat and replace her with an appointed
Republican DA. Second, to wipe out the state’s public corruption watchdog, which is currently
investigating corruption in at least one of the governor’s signature corporate subsidy programs.”

According to TPJ, the offenses range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 2 felony.

District Attorney Lehmberg was arrested and pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges in April. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail and was released early for good behavior.

Earlier this week, the Austin American-Statesman first reported that Gov. Perry is threatening to use a line item veto to remove money for the Public Integrity Unit if Lehmberg does not step down. The Public Integrity Unit is funded partially by the Texas Legislature and prosecutes ethics and campaign finance violations. As Travis County DA, Lehmberg is the head of that unit.

Gov. Perry hasn’t responded to the complaint directly, but did say this, today:

“My bottom line is this. That we’re going to look at this budget. We’re going to make decisions about this budget, and Travis County is going to have to make a decision about whether or not they keep a district attorney who obviously has some real problems from the standpoint of…I mean people who’ve looked at the video will probably come to the conclusion of most folks. That that was pretty inappropriate activity.”