Paul Lauterbach isn’t particularly excited about running for public office.
But he said he feels that it’s his public duty to do so after seeing disgraced former congressman Blake Farenthold get a job as a lobbyist with the Calhoun Port Authority. Farenthold left that job Jan. 4, after eight months with a taxpayer-funded salary.
“I don’t really want to do it, but we need an honest person in there,” Lauterbach said about the port’s board, which hired Farenthold.
Many in Calhoun County said they were glad to hear that Farenthold had left the position, news which was announced Thursday at the Calhoun Port Authority’s board meeting. The future for the embattled taxing entity is unclear, as terms for half of the board’s sitting members expire in 2019.
Lauterbach, an environmental engineer, said that had Farenthold not resigned this month, he would have pressured current board members to fire him during their re-election campaigns, or else try to fire him himself if he were elected to the board. He said he was frustrated that his community was getting a reputation thanks to Farenthold.
“The first thing that we got known for was this scumball doing this terrible thing and then paying it off with taxpayer money,” Lauterbach said, referring to an $84,000 settlement Farenthold paid to a staffer to resolve a sexual harassment claim. “That’s how we got national attention. And then ultimately we followed up with the port hiring the guy.”
Terms for three of the board’s six members expire in 2019: Board Chairman Randy Boyd as well as board members Dell Weathersby and J.C. Melcher Jr. Candidates hoping to run for office in the May 4 election can begin filing on Wednesday, and must file before the Feb. 15 deadline, according to the Texas Secretary of State.
It won’t be clear how many people will run to serve on the board until that Feb. 15 deadline, but at least one other Port Lavaca resident has expressed an interest in tossing his hat in the ring over his frustration with Farenthold’s hiring.
Port Lavaca resident Luis De La Garza previously told the Advocate he planned to run for Boyd’s seat.
Members of the port’s board have declined to comment about Farenthold’s tenure with the port, citing the pending lawsuit filed against the port by the Advocate. The Advocate filed an Open Meetings Act claim against the Calhoun Port Authority in May, arguing that the board failed to give the public proper notice when it hired Farenthold weeks after he left the U.S. Congress amid an ethics investigation.
Others in the community have expressed frustration over the board’s actions in the past year.
“Well I do believe that his resignation will be good for Calhoun County,” said Wayne Allen Tippit, a Port Lavaca resident and former candidate for public office himself. “I feel like it was a mistake to hire him to begin with, in my personal opinion.”
Tippit said he and his family wanted to see greater transparency from the port’s board.
“I’d like to see them be a little more open with their meetings and invite the press in and any public that wants to attend their meetings,” Tippit said. “It just seems like some of the closed door meetings pose questions in a person’s mind about, OK, what’s going on?”