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Texas Ethics Commission fined Agua SUD board president for failing to file personal financial statement

The Texas Ethics Commission slapped Agua Special Utility District board President Maribel Diaz with a $500 fine last year after she failed to file a personal financial statement.

Members of the utility board are required to file a financial statement with the Ethics Commission every year.

The financial statements, which list sources of income, debts and investments, allow the public to assess conflicts of interest.

“It is the policy of this state that a state officer or state employee may not have a direct or indirect interest, including financial and other interests, or engage in a business transaction or professional activity, or incur any obligation of any nature that is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of the officer’s or employee’s duties in the public interest,” according to the Texas Government Code. “To implement this policy and to strengthen the faith and confidence of the people of this state in state government, this chapter provides standards of conduct and disclosure requirements to be observed by persons owing a responsibility to the people and government of this state in the performance of their official duties.”

Maribel Diaz (Photo courtesy of Agua SUD.)

Diaz filed a financial statement in 2021, which showed that she received income from a company called Zaid Carriers LLC and owned property in Mission and Port Isabel.

In 2022, though, Diaz missed the deadline to file a financial statement.

The Ethics Commission sent Diaz a letter in May, warning her that anyone who fails to file a financial statement is subject to a $500 fine.

“Pursuant to the Government Code, if you fail to file the form, statement, or report as required within 20 days of the date of this notice, the Ethics Commission shall file a sworn complaint of the violation with the appropriate prosecuting attorney,” according to the letter.

The Ethics Commission sent Diaz another letter in June.

“Please note that because you have not responded to our previous letter, the Ethics Commission may also impose an additional penalty,” according to the letter. “The amount of the penalty is to be determined by the Ethics Commission, but may not exceed $10,000.”

The Ethics Commission sent Diaz yet another letter in July.

“Our office previously sent you two notices regarding the lateness of the report referenced above and the civil penalty imposed,” according to the letter. “It has been over 30 days and we have not received a response.”

The Ethics Commission informed Diaz that she may be referred to the Texas Attorney General’s Office or the appropriate prosecutor for enforcement.

In response to a public information request filed on Jan. 30, the Ethics Commission released letters and emails to Diaz but no documents showing that she responded — or filed the financial statement.

Whether or not the Ethics Commission referred Diaz to a prosecutor remains unclear. Executive Director J.R. Johnson said the Ethics Commission doesn’t comment on individual enforcement matters.

Under Section 7201 of the Special District Local Laws Code, which governs Agua SUD, failure to file a financial statement is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail.

Diaz didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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