Rep. Jonathan Stickland releases investigator’s tape of interview with Rep. Joe Pickett

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland has released portions of an audio recording of a police interrogation of his nemesis state Rep. Joe Pickett.

Pickett, the El Paso Democrat and Transportation Committee chairman who unceremoniously tossed Stickland from a hearing last month, admitted to an investigator from the Texas Rangers on May 14 that knew one of his staffers had called Stickland’s office on April 30, according to the recording.

JPRep. Joe Pickett

Pickett’s staffer, who used a fake name, called Stickland’s Capitol office before the Bedford Republican got thrown out of the Transportation Committee hearing for — as Pickett charged — improperly or illegally filling out committee forms in favor his House Bill 142, a proposal to ban red light cameras.

A story about the recording of the call was published here last week.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, wearing a gun lapel pin, smiles during debate of HB 910, an open carry bill, in the House Chamber at the Capitol on Friday April 17. (Photo by Jay Janner)
Rep. Jonathan Stickland in the House Chamber at the Capitol. (Photo by Jay Janner)

In the newly released audio, Pickett seemed to indicate that he was willing to use the recording as reasoning for ordering his staffer to investigate if Stickland was responsible for filling out witness forms in favor of his bill for people not in Austin — a charge, he said in committee, might amount to perjury.

Chuck as Walker, Texas Ranger
Chuck Norris as Walker, (fictional) Texas Ranger

“When (the staffer) played that for me, I didn’t get, ‘Oh, we got him.’ I just said, ‘That’s not enough,’” Pickett told the Ranger. “But it was enough for me to go and immediately tell (the staffer) to go sample some of the witnesses.”

Pickett said on the day of the hearing that possibly dozens of witness affirmation forms were being filled out for the hearing, which was on hold as House members met on the floor. And the number of forms didn’t reflect the number of people waiting to testify, he said.

“I had feeling that someone was manipulating our system,” Pickett said.

At that point. Pickett said that he “just did some checking.”

Stickland, too, said he did nothing wrong that spring day.

“I did not fill anything out. I did not tell anyone to fill anything out, and I had absolutely no knowledge of anyone filling anything out,” Stickland told the Statesman on Monday.

Further, he said he has not been told which rule or law was broken.

Stickland said the investigator gave his lawyer a copy of the interrogation.

Asked why the investigator handed over the recording, Stickland said: “We do not know.”

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety was not immediately available, but as a matter of course, department doesn’t comment on ongoing investigations.

Stickland said he released the audio to help him get answers to some key questions, such as: Was the lead-up to the investigation a set-up to punish the tea party agitator? And who knew about it?

Pickett insisted Monday that his actions were reasonable.

“I didn’t set up anybody,” he said.

Since the incident, state Rep. John Kuempel, a Republican from Seguin and chairman of the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee, has launched an investigation with the help of the Rangers.

The investigation has focused on the process of how committees’ electronic witness documents — like the ones Stickland or his staff was accused of filling out — are being used and potentially abused.

No individual members are being targeted, Kuempel said previously.

Earlier on April 30, Stickland and Pickett had a heated exchange on the House floor, when Stickland used a parliamentary maneuver to kill Pickett’s House Bill 2346.

Hear the excepts of the Ranger’s interview with Pickett.

Author: Tim Eaton

Tim is a reporter on the State Desk at the Austin American-Statesman. He covers the Texas House and several topics, such as immigration, insurance and any other issue that starts with an "i."

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