A defeated Galveston mayoral candidate Wednesday asserted one of the men still in the race had offered him a board appointment in exchange for an endorsement ahead of this month’s runoff election.
Bill Keese said Roger “Bo” Quiroga offered him an appointment to the Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees, which governs the Port of Galveston, if Keese agreed to endorse Quiroga over Craig Brown in the mayoral race.
“He said, ‘I was talking to people, and I would sure like to get you a seat on the wharves board; I think you’d be good at that. I’d like to do that, and I’d like you to endorse me,’” Keese said.
Keese took the ask as a quid pro quo, he said. A few days after the call, Keese told Quiroga he wouldn’t be endorsing him, he said.
Quiroga on Wednesday said he never specifically promised a board appointment as a quid pro quo for an endorsement. But he told Keese, a former state representative, he would consider him for the wharves board, Quiroga said.
“I told him that if a spot became open and he wanted it, I would consider him for it,” Quiroga said. “I didn’t make an offer to do it just for his votes.”
The call between the two men happened Nov. 4, one day after the general election determined Quiroga and Brown would head to a runoff.
Keese was one of five candidates in the mayoral race and ran on a platform of being an experienced lawmaker and Galveston outsider who could bring a new vision to the island.
He finished fourth in the race, garnering just 1,247 of the 19,665 votes cast for mayor.
His supporters, if they choose to participate in the runoff election, could help swing the final outcome of the race. Quiroga and Brown were separated by just 1,142 votes in the general election.
Keese also received a call from Brown on Nov. 4, he said. Brown asked for Keese’s support but did not offer anything in exchange for it, Keese said.
Keese chose not to endorse either candidate in the race for mayor, he said.
Still, Keese felt Quiroga’s offer was unusual and inappropriate and that people should know about it, he said.
“I was very surprised,” Keese said.
He said in his political career he’d never had anyone offer him something in exchange for an endorsement.
“A quid pro quo,” Keese said. “No one would ever do that. I’ve never had that in three campaigns for the legislature.
Keese said he prided himself on running an ethical and honorable campaign that followed the rules, which is why he was unnerved by Quiroga’s request.
“There are certain codes you should adhere to,” he said. “That was a benchmark of my campaign. That’s a benchmark of my life.”
Wharves board trustees are unpaid, like all of the volunteer board positions in the city, and are appointed through a vote of the Galveston City Council.
Wharves board trustees are among the most active and high-profile in the city.
Generally, candidates for the board are considered after they apply for the position and are interviewed by the entire city council. This year, however, the city council didn’t conduct public interviews with candidates and instead only asked them to write essays explaining their qualifications before making appointments.
Keese in 2018 filled out an application to be considered for city boards but has never asked to be appointed to the wharves board specifically, he said.
If he were elected mayor, Quiroga himself wouldn’t be able to make an appointment to the board. It would take a vote of the entire city council and four affirmative votes.
Although he said he told Keese he might consider him for the wharves board, Quiroga said he didn’t have a predetermined list of people he wanted to appoint to city boards and commissions.
“Anybody that I think is a good candidate, I would consider,” Quiroga said, adding he didn’t know whether it was reasonable for Keese to interpret his words as an offer.
“What I told him was that he would be a good candidate and that he would be a good candidate on any board,” Quiroga said.
Quiroga proposes changes to the way the city council appoints people to city boards. He wanted the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce to have more say on who gets appointed to city boards.
“We promised that the chamber of commerce would look at these applicants and make a recommendation,” Quiroga said. “It would just free up a little more time for us and let the business people take a look for the qualifications.”
Early voting in Galveston’s city council runoffs began Monday and continues through next week. Election Day is Dec. 15.