Rick Agosto Responds to Ethics Issue

by TFN

Texas State Board of Education member Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio, sent the following e-mail to us today. His message references two posts on TFN Insider from September 29, 2009 (here and here). Mr. Agosto’s e-mail to us follows in full.

Last year, the Texas Freedom Network published an Article on September 29th questioning my ethics as a State Board of Education member.

The editorial was based on a false report from the Morning News accusing me of accepting gifts from AEW Capital Management, which I did not, in fact, accept. And, despite my pointing out that fellow Board members and Permanent School Fund staff had leaked inaccurate information to the press for political gain, the Texas Freedom Network published this harmful editorial based on untrue allegations.

I am submitting this letter to clear my name.

The Texas Ethics Commission investigated this matter, I am pleased to report that the Commission has found “…insufficient evidence of a violation…” in these matters. Visit my website to see the full report by the Texas Ethics Commission. (See here.)

I’m highlighting the Commission’s finding, not merely because it clears my name, but because it is important that my fellow Texans know how seriously I take my fiduciary obligation to the state’s children. I want to reassure voters that I have adhered to the state’s code of ethics at all times.

As president and CEO of Aureus Partners, a financial marketing firm for institutional investing, I understand the role of a fiduciary and the importance of fulfilling that obligation. Board members are required to submit rigorous reports and detailed records of their financial activity to help ensure that they meet those obligations. However, as we saw in my case, there are discrepancies in reporting rules, which can provide ammunition to those seeking to tarnish reputations for political gain.

One problem that I and other observers have noted is an ethics policy that requires elected officials to report one thing, and vendors to report another. Another is inconsistent reporting periods: Today, a firm seeking to be appointed to manage the Fund’s assets must disclose all contacts with board members for the six months before submitting a response to a request for a proposal, while board members may have contact until the response is actually submitted.

I believe the Board should commit itself to fixing the ethics policy and reconciling inconsistent rules. We should all report the same things.

Going forward, it is my sincere hope that all members of the State Board of Education, regardless of party affiliation, will strive to do what is best for the children. The highly-charged political environment in which we find ourselves today unfortunately often leads to political attacks and smear campaigns. Such politically-motivated misbehavior neither serves nor sets a good example for the school children of Texas, whose futures are entrusted to us.

Sincerely,

Rick Agosto
District 3 Trustee of State Board of Education