Common Election Campaign Legal Issues

Running for any public office comes with many strict regulations and guidelines. These regulations are put in place to ensure a fair election and to preserve democracy. Unfortunately, these restrictions only work if those involved with election campaigns abide by them. Election campaigns run into a variety of legal issues involving federal and state regulations, sometimes unintentionally, but other times with the hope their violations will go unnoticed.

Some of the most common election campaign legal issues include:

  • Misappropriation of funds – Campaign funds cannot be spent on just anything. These funds should only be spent on the campaign and are not available for personal use or to purchase things like property or pay interest.
  • Failure to submit reports – Election campaigns must file financial reports with the Texas Election Commission, even in non-election years. During an election year, candidates for office are required to submit four reports throughout the year.
  • Not disclosing advertising – Under Texas campaign law, certain campaign advertising must include a disclosure statement explaining the advertising is “political advertising” or “pol. adv.” and include the name of the person who paid for the advertising, the political committee authorizing the political advertising, or the candidate or specific-purpose committee supporting the candidate.
  • Accepting funds or making an expenditure without a treasurer – Any campaign that receives contributions and/or makes expenditures must first appoint a campaign treasurer and file the necessary paperwork.
  • Accepting funds from prohibited organizations – Candidates cannot accept contributions from everyone. In Texas, candidates cannot receive contributions from organizations like labor unions and most corporations.
  • Accepting out of state contributions – Before accepting any out of state contributions, candidates need to obtain and file required paperwork.
  • Accepting contributions during a legislative session – Most offices in Texas do not allow candidates to accept contributions during a period that begins 30 days before a regular legislative session convenes and ends 20 days after final adjournment

Experienced Election Campaign Lawyers

Failure to abide by election laws could not only jeopardize a candidate’s entire campaign, but it could also cause candidates to face civil lawsuits or even criminal charges. At Feldman & Feldman, our election campaign lawyers are well versed in Texas election laws. We can advise campaigns and help establish procedures for compliance with regulations.

Everything You Need To Know About The Texas Whistleblower Act

As a government employee, what do you do if you discover your employer, a government agency or organization, is breaking the law? While you might feel compelled to report your employer to the authorities, you may be equally worried it could cost you your job. Fortunately, government employees who alert authorities to wrongdoings by their employers are offered numerous protections under the Texas Whistleblower Act.

Blowing the Whistle on an Employer

There are numerous wrongdoings a government agency or organization might engage in, including violating the Texas Open Meeting Act or the Texas Public Information Act, safety regulations, or committing an illegal activity. Unfortunately, blowing the whistle on a government employer comes with many risks. Employees or whistleblowers could lose their jobs and be blacklisted in their respective fields; but, retaliation of this type is also illegal under the Texas Whistleblower Act

The Texas Whistleblower Act

To encourage employees to report illegal activity by government agencies and organizations, state legislators passed the Texas Whistleblower Act in 1983. Under this Act, public employees are protected from various forms of retaliation by employers, including suspension, termination, or any adverse actions against the employee. It is important to note the Texas Whistleblower Act only protects public, and not private employees, with some exceptions. Certain healthcare professionals that report abuse can seek protection under the Texas Whistleblower Act. Additionally, employees reporting violations of the Hazard Communication Act or certain types of discrimination can also be protected from retaliation.

Why You Need A Lawyer

Whistleblower laws in Texas can be complex, and some government agencies and organizations will blatantly violate them. When this occurs, an experienced whistleblower attorney can help victims seek compensation for back pay, benefits and seniority, and other damages. If you work for a public entity and suspect the government agency or organization you work for is committing wrongdoing, you should contact a lawyer immediately. By partnering with an experienced lawyer, you will be able to protect yourself from retaliation. It is also important to work with a lawyer because you need someone who is looking out for your best interests. Law enforcement agencies will work to get justice, and this can sometimes cause the whistleblower to suffer collateral damage. An attorney can protect you and your best interests at all times.

At Feldman & Feldman, we have worked with numerous whistleblowers in Texas as they courageously stand up to government agencies committing wrongdoing. It is our pleasure to serve Houston and the entire state of Texas by supporting and protecting citizens who report government abuses.

What Citizens Should Know About The Texas Public Information Act and The Texas Open Meeting Act

As Texans, we have the right to know what is going on with governmental entities. This not only helps ensure a system of checks and balances, but also serves to keep officials and appointees accountable. However, many Texans are completely unaware of their rights and do not exercise them.

About The Texas Public Information Act

The Public Information Act states “Governmental bodies shall promptly release requested information that is not confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision, or information for which an exception to disclosure has not been sought.” Essentially, this means Texans have a right to access most government records. Additionally, Texans requesting records cannot be asked why they are requesting them. Because we elect many of our officials, we have a right to review the work they perform on our behalf. Without this transparency, democracy cannot exist.

The Texas Opening Meetings Act

The Texas Open Meetings Act dictates that governmental bodies must hold open meetings unless there is an authorized reason for a closed session, also known as an executive session. The Texas Open Meetings Act applies to many organizations, like commissioner courts, city councils, school boards, and nonprofit organizations that provide public services or spend taxpayer money among others. Meeting dates and times must be posted at least 72 hours in advance so interested citizens can participate in the meetings if they so choose.

Violations of The Texas Public Information Act and The Texas Open Meetings Act 

Sometimes violations of the Texas Public Information Act and the Texas Opening Meetings Act are simply due to carelessness. Some officials may be unaware of the nuances of the laws, but other times there are specific reasons for violations. There are instances when officials don’t want to share information because it could be incriminating, or at the very least, unflattering. However, restricting this information infringes on the rights of Texans to know what goes on in their government and community.

At Feldman & Feldman, we fiercely protect Texans’ right to information. We will take on local and state agencies to make sure they comply with the Texas Public Information Act and the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Cris Feldman Reaches Settlement For Neighborhood In White Oak Music Hall Lawsuit

Houston is notorious for its lack of zoning laws and while makes our neighborhoods unique, homeowners in the Houston Heights have been suffering from the lack of rules. The White Oak Music Hall, a popular music venue, is disturbing homeowners up to half a mile away who say the venue’s loud noises rattle their windows and awaken their sleeping children. Feldman & Feldman filed a lawsuit against the venue in 2016 to help homeowners get some peace, and now Cris Feldman has successfully negotiated a settlement on behalf of these homeowners.

White Oak Outdoor Shows Cause Problems

In April 2016, the White Oak Music Hall began holding outdoor shows and performances, causing its residential neighbors to begin filing noise complaints. Residents made noise complaints with the Houston Police Department, but the disputes stalled in municipal courts and nothing was ever done to stop the noise.

Cris Feldman of Feldman & Feldman stepped in and filed a lawsuit against the venue in December 2016. The lawsuit also named the City of Houston as a defendant after the city failed to respond to numerous resident complaints. In early 2017, Feldman & Feldman successfully obtained an injunction restricting the number of outdoor shows the venue could hold. In addition, the venue had to install sound monitors and submit weekly reports of sound readings.

Successful White Oak Music Hall Settlement For Greater Heights Homeowners

The Greater Heights homeowners’ settlement with White Oak Music Hall includes limitations on when and how long shows can be held at the venue. The music venue is limited on the number of outdoor shows it can hold and shows on school nights can’t last past 9:30 p.m. The venue is also prohibited from holding any outdoor concerts during state STAAR testing.

In addition to these limitations, the venue must also set up a sound monitoring system showing real-time sound levels. To ensure there is no tampering with the sound monitoring device, the venue must also set up a camera to record activity around the monitor. If White Oak Music Hall violates any of these conditions, the venue can be fined up to $15,000 per violation.

Feldman & Feldman: Representing Houstonians

Cris Feldman and the entire legal team at Feldman & Feldman are proud to represent residents of their local Houston community. While we have high hopes the White Oak Music Hall settlement will bring peace to the neighborhood, we will also work to ensure White Oak Music Hall complies with terms of the settlement.

Feldman Fights for Houston Fire Fighters

Houston Firefighters’ Union Claims City Is Refusing to Verify Petition for Equal Pay (Houston Press):

The April petition that’s apparently standing in the way of the firefighters’ equal-pay initiative is problematic for several reasons, Lancton claims. The petition was filed by the outside political group Texans For Local Control — which is based in Austin, according to campaign finance records — and it pushes for 401(k)-style pension reform. The problem with that, argues former city attorney David Feldman, who now represents the firefighters union, is that the Legislature already passed Mayor Turner’s pension-reform solution during the regular session, thus making this petition moot.

Feldman said the state, not city governments, has the final say on pension policies — which makes it highly unlikely that even if Texans for Local Control’s petition was verified by August 21, placed on the ballot and approved by voters, it would even matter much. That’s because the Legislature would then need to tackle Houston pension reform all over again after this year’s long slog working with Turner and the city to address it.

Cris Feldman battles alleged fraud in Rio Grand Valley

New court documents allege money was laundered to help David Fuentes win a seat on the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court.

The legal papers, filed Wednesday morning by Houston Attorney Cris Feldman, accuse Weslaco Personal Injury lawyer Ezequiel Reyna Jr. of laundering cold cash through Fuentes’ personal checking account in his 2016 Commissioners Court. Reyna is Fuentes’ uncle.

A.C. Cuellar was Hidalgo County Commissioner from 2012 through 2016 until David Fuentes won a hard-fought Democratic primary in March. Fuentes loaned his own campaign $400,000, but there is evidence the money was illegally funneled to Fuentes.

“This is sadly the latest chapter in a sordid history of unscrupulous campaign tactics in the history of Rio Grande Valley politics”, says Houston Attorney Cris Feldman. “The buck literally stops here with today’s court filing.”

The new lawsuit accuses Fuentes of failing to report tens of thousands of dollars in contributions and expenditures, part of his scheme to violate Texas election law. Reyna has been joined as a Defendant in the uncle/nephew conspiracy to secretly influence the March 1, 2016 Democratic Primary.

Victory for White Oak Residents

Harris County State District Judge Kristen Hawkins has issued a temporary injunction against operators of the White Oak Music Hall.

The order, signed late Wednesday, agrees that neighbors of the noisy 5-acre mosh pit have been besieged with unreasonable noise from amplified concerts, and have shown a probable right of recovery at a scheduled trial in May of this year.

White Oak has been put on a tight leash. Judge Hawkins will only allow two amplified shows of any kind at the outside concert venue, and will require White Oak to install sound monitors and make weekly reports to the Court if sound readings exceed the City of Houston ordinance.

“This is a victory for the families in three Houston neighborhoods, and it should be a wakeup call for the City of Houston to stand with families who simply want silent nights”, says Cris Feldman, the Houston Attorney with the Feldman and Feldman law firm who fought to stop the horrible noise.

The White Oak Music Hall concerts have prompted hundreds of complaints to police and three upcoming criminal trials for violations of the City of Houston sound ordinance.

“It is time that the Turner administration join with the children who are forced to live near this mosh pit to stop the outdoor noise for good”, says Feldman. “We will be prepared to take this case to trial, and seek one million dollars in damages for these families.”

A news conference is being planned for Thursday morning at 11:00 AM outside White Oak Music Hall.

Attorney Cris Feldman of Feldman & Feldman fights for neighborhoods in White Oak Music Hall nuisance case

A hearing in Harris County civil court began Thursday morning, in which a judge must decide whether or not to grant a temporary injunction to stop all concerts at the White Oak Music Hall, until the end of a trial regarding a lawsuit filed by a group of residents who say the venue creates too much noise.

White Oak Residents to File Bond to Preserve Silent Nights

Families from three Houston neighborhoods spent Sunday in the frigid cold raising money for the legal fight against the developers of the outdoor White Oak Music Hall.

Monday morning at 10:30 a.m., Houston Attorney Cris Feldman will join neighborhood representatives on the steps of the Harris County Civil Courthouse to address the media.

Harris County District Court Judge Michael Gomez signed a Temporary Restraining Order against the outdoor music venues Friday, but imposed a $7,500 bond to enforce the silent nights, at least until a January 12 Court hearing.

Santa Claus joined the neighborhood Sunday for a garage and bake sale to begin raising the money for the legal fight ahead. The $7,500 for the bond was raised and children will join Feldman to pay the money to the District Clerk.

Feldman will call on Mayor Turner to yank permits for an outdoor permanent stage. “It is time for the Mayor to choose,” says Feldman. “Will he stand with the children who just want a good night’s sleep, or with the greedy developers who put an outdoor concert hall in the middle of established working class neighborhoods.”