Back in September, I wrote a piece here on Big Jolly Politics about the checkered past of State Republican Executive Committeewoman Becky Berger, who was appointed by Republican Party of Texas State Chairman Steve Munisteri to the Party’s “Officials Committee.” In that piece, I discussed how Berger has been ordered to pay $179,500 in sanctions for abusing the judicial system in a legal proceeding she was involved in as well as a $12,000 penalty that was levied against her by the Texas Department of Insurance for violating state consumer protection laws. Berger only paid $100 of the $12,000 penalty and surrendered her insurance license in order to prevent further enforcement proceedings against her by the Texas Department of Insurance.
Since the time of my original post, Berger has updated her campaign website to signal her intent to run for the Texas House of Representatives should current State Representative Lois Kolkhorst be elected to replace Comptroller-elect Glenn Hegar in the Texas Senate (Kolkhorst is heavily favored to win the special election to replace Hegar, which is rumored to be scheduled before Christmas).
In addition to laying the groundwork for a state legislative campaign, Berger has had her hands full with personal legal matters. Earlier this week, documents were filed in the 164th District Court in Harris County showing that Berger has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit that was brought against her by a company she formerly owned an ownership stake in.
In 2012, in the midst of her first failed campaign for Railroad Commissioner, claims were brought against Berger by Nine Plus Properties, Inc., a company that owns apartment complexes in the Houston area. Berger is the former majority shareholder of Nine Plus. Nine Plus alleged, among other claims, that Berger “looted, embezzled, and paid herself” funds belonging to Nine Plus and used Nine Plus funds to pay her personal creditors.
According to various documents filed with the Court in the lawsuit, Berger began her business relationship with Nine Plus sometime around May of 2007. At that time, the sole shareholder of Nine Plus was a gentleman named Jose Escarsega. Nine Plus was apparently in some financial distress and Berger and Escarsega and/or Nine Plus entered into an agreement where Berger would agree to guarantee a loan for Nine Plus. According to an affidavit filed by Escarsega, “Becky Berger agreed to become the guarantor of a loan for Nine Plus Properties, Inc. She received an initial fee of $20,000 for that agreement. Thereafter, she was to receive a fee of $65,000 for acting as guarantor of the loan.” Escarsega further stated that Berger also became a majority shareholder of Nine Plus at that time.
It is unclear how exactly Berger was credit worthy enough to guarantee such a loan at that time, as just one year later Berger submitted a sworn affidavit to the Texas Department of Insurance stating that she lacked the funds to pay the $12,000 penalty that had been assessed against her by TDI in 2003.
The allegations lodged by Nine Plus against Berger are very serious and Berger’s agreement to pay $100,000 to settle this lawsuit serves to lend credibility to the claims made by Nine Plus. The circumstances surrounding this lawsuit, coupled with the previous conduct I described in my prior blog post, should disqualify Berger from both public office and service on the SREC (especially in a capacity where she is tasked with helping to develop and oversee the State Party’s budget).
Additionally, as a prospective candidate for the Texas Legislature, Berger should release her tax returns from the time period in which she was involved with Nine Plus to demonstrate that all payments made directly to her by Nine Plus and/or made by Nine Plus to her personal creditors were properly reported as income to the IRS.