A Travis County judge has set back efforts by Texas Gov. George Bush to stay off the witness stand in a whistle-blower lawsuit over Texas funeral home regulation. Travis County District Judge John Dietz ruled Friday that Eliza May, the former executive director of the Texas Funeral Service Commission, would not have to give a deposition before Monday's hearing, when the judge will decide whether Bush must take the witness stand.
Dona Hamilton of the Texas Attorney General's office asked the judge to allow her to take May's deposition Friday so the state can determine what May knows about Bush's interactions with officials from Service Corporation International, the world's largest funeral home company. The motion says May should be deposed because she "has sought to hold him [Bush] in contempt of court, swearing that she has personal knowledge that he has lied and filed a frivolous pleading."
May is seeking Bush's testimony in her whistle-blower suit, which charges the state with trying to block her agency's investigation of illegal practices by SCI, whose owner is a major backer of Bush. Her attorneys also want the court to find Bush in contempt of court for allegedly lying in a sworn affidavit he submitted to the court. The affidavit accompanied a motion to quash a subpoena issued by May's attorneys seeking Bush's testimony. Bush has denied knowing anything about the case. During a press conference last week, he said, "This is a frivolous lawsuit. This is politics."
But Judge Dietz, a Democrat, denied the state's motion and ordered that the motion to question May and the motion to quash the subpoena of the governor be heard Monday. Dietz will also hear a motion asking that Bush be found in contempt of court.
Six months ago, May, the former treasurer of the Texas Democratic Party, sued the state and Houston-based SCI, alleging that she was fired after she uncovered numerous violations of state law committed by the company's funeral homes. She also claimed that state legislators and Bush's office interfered with her agency's investigation in order to help SCI. The company's CEO, Robert Waltrip, is a longtime friend of the Bush family.