Nearly four years after traveling to a Jackson, Miss., rodeo using state funds, Sid Miller — Texas’ colorful agriculture commissioner — has been slapped with a $500 fine from the Texas Ethics Commission.
Miller, a champion calf roper, attended the National Dixie Rodeo in February 2015, a month after being sworn into office. His office gave conflicting accounts of why taxpayers had bankrolled the trip. At first, Miller said he had intended to meet with agriculture officials in Mississippi — that would have made the trip a legitimate state-funded business expense — but that, when those meetings fell through, he reimbursed the state with campaign funds. His communications director, who later resigned, said a staffer had mistakenly booked the trip using state funds, and Miller repaid the state after the staffer recognized the mistake.
In 2016, the Texas Rangers launched a criminal investigation into the Mississippi trip and another February 2015 jaunt to Oklahoma, where Miller received a controversial injection known as “the Jesus Shot.” But prosecutors decided not to press charges after determining that “criminal intent would be difficult to prove.”
In its report, released late Thursday, the Ethics Commission wrote that “credible evidence indicates the primary purpose of the trip to Jackson was personal” given that Miller spent the bulk of his time at the rodeo, where he won prize money after competing in at least seven events. The commission wrote that Miller bungled the reporting of the reimbursement, which came from a political account.
“No meetings besides the horse show appear on any official Texas Agriculture Department schedules,” the commission wrote.
And Miller “has not adequately explained why he initially reimbursed the state with political funds before reimbursing his political account with personal funds,” the report states.