Opponents say Turner enriched himself representing failed charter school

- Texas legislators get paid $28,200 a year. It's not hardly enough for most to live on, so the majority have other jobs.

Mayoral candidate and longtime State Representative Sylvester Turner augments his income with a successful legal practice. But his opponents say far too many of Turner's clients appear to hire him because of his substantial influence within Texas government.

Former Congressman and mayoral candidate Chris Bell says it doesn't pass the smell test.

"If they want to practice law that's great, but they shouldn't be benefiting and getting business just because they are member of the state legislature," said Bell.

The Ben Hall mayoral campaign says a good example of Turner's lucrative legal dealings can be found with Jamie's House, a now shuttered public charter school here in Houston which drew national attention several years ago when a teacher there was caught on video viciously beating a student.

Records show Jamie's House paid Turner's legal firm at least $220,000 in the years before and after the incident, as the charter unsuccessfully fought a closure ordered by the Texas Education Agency.

"It is totally common for legislators to go to state agencies on behalf of their constituents. That's great. That's what they should be doing. You don't charge people for that. Are you doing more for the people who pay you than the people who don't ?," asked Wayne Dolcefino, spokesman for the Hall campaign.

In response to FOX 26's request for comment, Turner issued the following statement:

"I have a record of fighting for inner city school kids who have been left behind; Ben Hall has a record of not paying his school taxes and hiring disgraced former reporters with a record of pushing shoddy research to generate headlines.  This is a desperate act by a losing candidate in the last three weeks of the campaign to try to make himself relevant in this election. I have faith in Houston voters that they will see through this."

Endorsed by the Houston Chronicle, Turner most recently came under fire after it was disclosed his title company received substantial business from Houston ISD after the influential State Representative reversed his position and supported the $1.9 billion 2012 Bond Issue.

While it's legal in Texas for firms with issues and business before state government to hire sitting lawmakers, Rice Political scientist Mark Jones calls the practice "the unseemly, underbelly of Texas politics."

 

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