A TV news report revealing the existence of a 2017 campaign finance complaint against Galveston County Judge Mark Henry led Tuesday to a flurry of dirty-tricks accusations between Henry and his opponent in the March GOP primary, District Court Judge Lonnie Cox.

The report aired on FOX 26 news Monday night. Henry said Tuesday he’d filed a criminal complaint against Cox, alleging the judge had used his position to access and leak confidential records that were part of a divorce proceeding initiated by Henry’s wife and sealed by court order.

Cox denied that accusation.

Henry also claimed the Texas Attorney General’s Office had appointed a special prosecutor to investigate an earlier complaint against Cox about the use of campaign funds in the long-running lawsuit between Cox and the county. Cox said he knows of no such investigation.

The various agencies that would be responsible for investigating the claims declined Tuesday to confirm whether the various complaints or investigations exist.

ETHICS COMPLAINT

Henry confirmed that his wife had filed a complaint against him with the Texas Ethics Commission in February 2017. He declined to share a copy of the complaint, and said it had been resolved in June or July without any penalties against him.

“They dismissed it,” Henry said. “They asked us for documents. We turned over everything. They dismissed it.”

The complaint was about a transfer of $62,000 that Henry made from a campaign account to his business, according to the TV report. There was nothing untoward about the transfer, Henry said. He had been reimbursing himself for a personal loan made to the campaign, he said.

“I don’t understand how it’s a story,” he said. “I loaned to my campaign and I paid it back. Not even all of it. I only paid part of it back.”

Henry and his wife, Amy Henry, are still married. Civil court records show two different divorce cases between the couple, both in 2017. Henry said Tuesday he and his wife were reconciling.

A spokesman for the Texas Ethics Commission said Tuesday he was barred by state law from confirming whether a complaint had previously been filed against Henry. The commission confirms complaints only if a person has been found to have broken election laws and ordered to make some sort of restitution, he said.

No such orders have been issued against Henry, according to records posted on the commission’s website.

LEAK ACCUSATIONS

Henry said he believes Cox used his position as a district court judge to access sealed records, copy them and leak them to allies and the media.

Henry said he had no direct evidence that Cox had accessed the records, however.

“I have nothing except that he had motive and access, and nobody else has either,” he said.

The ethics complaint was among other divorce-related documents that had been sealed by the judge hearing the case, Henry said.

Henry said he filed a criminal complaint against Cox on Jan. 18, when he first learned of people sharing information from his divorce case.

Cox denied he had anything to do with the apparent leak.

“I don’t have the authority to open up the court record from another court,” Cox said. “It’s just not true. I don’t have it. I can’t get it, so I can’t give it.”

Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady would not comment Tuesday on claims made about documents filed with his office.

“We aren’t confirming or denying anything has been filed,” Roady said.

The county late Tuesday responded to an open records request regarding Henry’s complaint with a copy of an email Henry sent to Roady on Jan. 18.

In the email, Henry told Roady he had been contacted by a reporter from The Texas Monitor, an online news outlet, about the ethics complaint and material from the divorce proceeding.

“That file has not been unsealed and this was the only time it was put into the record,” Henry wrote.

He asked Roady to investigate the leak.

Cox said he had never spoken to anyone from The Texas Monitor. The Texas Monitor has not published any articles about either of the men, according to a review of its website.

Henry also said he had consulted with a civil attorney about the issue.

ENOS INVESTIGATION

Henry meanwhile claimed Cox was the subject of an investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office over a complaint made last month by Greg Enos, a Friendswood attorney who moonlights as a judicial watchdog.

Enos, in a lengthy post in his newsletter The Mongoose, accused Cox of violating state law by using campaign funds to pay an attorney to represent him in a lawsuit against Henry and the commissioners court.

Cox has denied any wrongdoing.

Roady said the his office had referred Enos’ complaint to the attorney general’s office.

Henry claimed an assistant attorney general had been assigned to investigate the complaint, and named an attorney he claims is involved in the investigation.

Both that attorney and a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office declined Tuesday to confirm whether any investigation existed.

“Unfortunately, we have to follow policy and I cannot confirm or deny any investigation by the OAG at this time,” spokeswoman Kayleigh Lovvorn said.

Cox said he was unaware of any investigation of him by the attorney general’s office, adding that he had called the agency to ask whether he was being investigated.

“The AG’s office told me that they would never confirm or deny an investigation,” Cox said.

Early voting for the primary race between Cox and Henry begins Feb. 20. Election Day is on March 6. The winner of the race will be the presumptive judge-elect, as no Democrat filed to run for the position this year.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(13) comments

Walter Manuel

"Henry said he believes Cox used his position as a district court judge to access sealed records, copy them and leak them to allies and the media".

"Henry said he had no direct evidence that Cox had accessed the records, however".

“I have nothing except that he had motive and access, and nobody else has either,” he said.

Geez, so now it's ok for someone to file a false complaint with the state just because someone "had motive and access, and nobody else has either".

That tells me that Judge Mark Henry obviously makes irrational decisions based on "assumptions" that someone is guilty until proven innocent which is even more alarming seeing how he's a county court magistrate while having no law degree.

This unfounded "leak" just proves just how low some politicians will go to win their seats.

Come on, this is an outright mockery to our election process.

What's really funny is that Judge Mark Henry's camp couldn't come up with anyone better than the likes of someone like Shawn Christopher Phillips to promote this unfounded smear campaign.

Voters need to remember that eventually everything that is done in the dark WILL come to light! [whistling]

Ron Shelby

Sounds like its time to open an investigation and consider sending some people to jail ....starting with those in the office where sealed court records are kept.

Walter Manuel

"Henry confirmed that his wife had filed a complaint against him with the Texas Ethics Commission in February 2017. He declined to share a copy of the complaint, and said it had been resolved in June or July without any penalties against him".

“They dismissed it,” Henry said. “They asked us for documents. We turned over everything. They dismissed it.”

"The complaint was about a transfer of $62,000 that Henry made from a campaign account to his business, according to the TV report. There was nothing untoward about the transfer, Henry said. He had been reimbursing himself for a personal loan made to the campaign, he said".

Soooo, why wouldn't a scorned woman not also disclose her own "sealed documents" information if in fact she went as far as filing an ethics complaint against her own husband with the Texas Ethics Commission?

The things that make you go hmmmmm....[whistling]

Carol Dean

I agree with you, Walter. Be it known that in a personal email message sent to me by Mark Henry, after the airing of the FOX26 broadcast, he told me to research Texas Govt. Code 571.140 and to supply him with the name of my attorney! Geeze, Louise, I might be good at digging for the truth, but I have NO access to sealed records of any kind! Still trying to decide if Mark's message was a threat or not.

Linda Vaccaro

[rolleyes] Geez Louise! These 2 seem to be acting like schoolboys fighting on the playground! Maybe they ought to duke it out and get it over with.

Bobby Wylie

So am the only one confused how you loan your own campaign money, then pay yourself back from money paid towards your campaign by donors to your campaign.
Must be legal. What a racket !!!!!!!!. Believe it speaks loudly of Judge Henry not willing to spend his money to get elected, but its OK to spend his friends and donors.
Not the guy I want running my county!

Leigh Cowart

I personally can't wait for this election to be over!

Ron Shelby

That's very normal to loan your own personal money to the campaign (either as money you had on hand or money you borrowed from a bank) as it takes a while to get your name out and get contributions to help. You don't "make" money though. Its absolutely a loan at no interest. The risk is that you never collect enough to pay off your loans leaving you heavily in debt. If you didn't allow candidates to loan their campaign money, then it would take forever to get them off the ground, only the rich could/would run because they can afford to lose that money, and you might even be in violation of campaign contribution limit laws if the laws were worded differently.

Ray Taft

Judge Henry and his cronies' mudslinging and finger pointing at Judge Cox are attempts to distract voters' attention away from Henry.

Henry has not served Galveston County very well. Under Henry, the county has done little to nothing to improve flood control. Henry's response to Harvey and so many other things has been to do nothing. Instead of acting, Henry looks around until he finds others who he proclaims to be responsible to act. Henry then conveniently blames those others for any failures, because he claims it is not his fault.

Henry is a leader who is devoid of action, but full of excuses. And that is why the county lacks so much and why so many families still need help after Harvey. Galveston County needs leadership change.

PD Hyatt

Sounds to me what has been going on in Washington D.C. is now going on down here. IMHO with all that has been going on and with all of the bad publicity that has been going on about Cox, I know where I would suspect the leak to the news media happened.... It had to be Cox or one of his supporters that had access to these so called "sealed" files.... You know our country is not doing well when Judges at all levels of the locals, county, state and Federal Judges are not only NOT following the law they are deliberately breaking the law.... Either our government and our justice system learns to obey the law or this will surely lead to anarchy in this nation.... Of course then you have the media who stirs up everything like the GDN when they published that foolish piece written by Michael Smith and then published by the GDN.... Someone high must have liked that article else it would never have made it out to the light of day in the paper.... They only censored him after there were to many complaints....

Walter Manuel

Well, well, well.... looks like Shawn Christopher Phillips had a lot to say to everyone in the forum when he wrote his opinion column, but now that he's been exposed for obviously being "cheap help" for a struggling campaign camp, SCP ain't nowhere to be found.

Perhaps Shawn Christopher Phillips is trying to save by what's left of his credibility and chooses to not blog on this article?

I've always been told that talk is cheap... well that's until you have to lawyer up because your mouth wrote a check that your behind can't make good! [smile]

Susan Criss

Why was the file sealed to begin with? My ex had our divorce file sealed. Since my name change back to maiden name was in that file I had to get a court order every time I had to prove the name change, such as on my bar license. I finally got my ex to agree to unseal our file. It was done at his request of the judge to begin with.
There was never a good reason to seal ours. Whether a file is sealed or open to the public should not depend on who you are.
I know that people talked about looking for Henry's file for years. I would occasionally be asked by Republicans( not his friends) if I or my dad had it. We did not. I did not have the ability to even get my own sealed divorce file without a court order.
The same thing happened for a long time with former Judge Chris Dupuy's divorce file. Then it appeared. That was long before the current District Clerk was in office. John Kinard is a former law enforcement. He is as above board as they get. And so are the people I know in his office. I do not understand how this happens.

Gary Miller

Did Cox skip some HRC lessons on planning cover ups before doing anything illegal?

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