Naked City

Mala Sangre Probe Conflict?

The independent investigator hired by the Austin Police Department to conduct an inquiry into whether APD Assistant Chief Jimmy Chapman committed perjury while under oath has been given a 30-day extension to complete his work. But questions are now arising about just how "independent" the investigator really is.

APD Chief Stan Knee hired James McLaughlin, executive director and general counsel for the Texas Police Chiefs Association, in late August to conduct an administrative inquiry into whether Chapman lied under oath during his July deposition in a whistle blower lawsuit filed by officer Jeff White -- the latest chapter in the department's ongoing Mala Sangre saga. In a prepared statement, Knee said he decided to hire McLaughlin to look into the matter after a "police department employee" informed Knee that Chapman provided "inaccurate information" during his deposition. Though perjury is a crime, Knee only asked McLaughlin to conduct an administrative investigation to determine whether Chapman may have violated APD policies; Chapman was not placed on restricted duty until Sept. 10, the day after lawyers for the city and for White took further deposition testimony from other APD officers.

When Knee touted McLaughlin's credentials as a law enforcement leader, he omitted the fact that McLaughlin is also a lobbyist registered with the Texas Ethics Commission on behalf of the TPCA. Capitol sources tell the Chronicle that McLaughlin regularly appears before legislative committees, lobbying for various bills -- including appearances before the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, whose chair -- Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin -- Chapman recently hired to be his lawyer. (At press time, though, the Chronicle was unable to find any record of McLaughlin testifying before Keel's committee during the last legislative session.) When asked about the potential conflict of interest, APD spokesman Lt. David Parkinson said Knee was preparing a statement addressing the potential conflict and outlining his reasons for choosing McLaughlin to conduct the inquiry. At press time, Knee had not yet released such a statement.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Police Department, APD, James McLaughlin, Texas Police Chiefs Association, Terry Keel, Jimmy Chapman, Laura Huffman, David Parkinson, Stan Knee, Jeff White

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