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    Memo urged agency to lean conservative

    BY R.G. RATCLIFFE
    01/31/2004
    by R.G. RATCLIFFE on 1/31/04.

    AUSTIN -- A memo from a Texas Workforce Commission employee raises questions about whether an agency director attempted to use her office to build a conservative political machine.

    "Everything we do in external affairs, whether it is press or outreach or work with legislators should have as an end result, affecting public policy to TWC's benefit, that is to say frankly, getting legislation passed or killed," says the memo, which was obtained by the Houston Chronicle this week.

    "TWC needs a public relations overhaul."

    The memo said the commission needed to align with conservative advocacy groups to promote its programs and find "sugar daddy" legislators to carry its bills. The commission is in charge of labor statistics, unemployment benefits and welfare-to-work programs.

    The Chronicle obtained the memo this week and asked the agency about it. Two hours later, commission Executive Director Larry Temple told the author, Governmental Relations Director Carol Jones, to resign. She did.

    "It in no way, form or fashion represents our perception of how we should deal with the Legislature, or how we dealt with the Legislature or how we want to be known as dealing with the Legislature," said Temple, who added he never saw Jones' March 2003 memo before it was pointed out to him by the Chronicle.

    "To have an individual who had that philosophy, we didn't believe would be in the best interests of the commissioners and the agency and the people we serve," Temple said.

    Jones' memo said the Workforce Commission is in a "crisis" because it is viewed as a "welfare program." She said the agency needs to be promoted as an economic development agency.

    When it comes to program efficiencies, "liberals can be told that it frees up more money for other programs like eldercare."

    Shortly after taking over as the agency's executive director last fall, Temple reorganized the six-person governmental relations staff, laying off three longtime employees, including the director.

    In her memo, Jones said the agency should build allies with conservative think tanks such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy and individuals "opposed to universal Pre-K" in schools.

    The memo by Jones, who could not be reached for comment, showed that she saw the agency operations as the promotion of a political agenda and as preparation for the 2005 Legislature.

    Communications Director Larry Jones, no relation, said Carol Jones wrote the memo as a staff member in March 2003 and that it was not implemented when she became governmental relations director in November.