Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oh, That Law Trumps My Law? Never Mind.

Old man yells at cloud

At Monday night's Richardson City Council meeting, attorney Richard Tanner spoke during the open-mike visitors section and accused the city council of illegally violating the city charter by issuing certificates of obligation (bonds) without first submitting the matter to the voters. Serious accusation. This wasn't your stereotypical "old man yells at cloud" rant. He's a lawyer. He must know what he's talking about, right?

After the jump, what the lawyer didn't know. Or at least what he didn't tell us.

In no time at all, Bill McCalpin documented the fact that state law preempts city charters on this matter and specifically allows a municipality to issue such bonds "regardless of any provision in the municipality's charter to the contrary."

Ian McCann of The Dallas Morning News was a little late to the party, but he, too, reported that, according to Texas state law, "no matter what a home-rule charter says, cities may issue certificates of obligation as allowed by state law."

So, what's the deal here? Is Richard Tanner an attorney who didn't do his homework? If so, a return visit to the city council with an apology is called for. Or did he know about the state law and deliberately omit to mention it? That would reflect even less kindly on Mr Tanner. Or do the rest of us non-lawyers just don't know how to read and interpret what seems to be "crystal clear" state law? In that case, it's in Mr Tanner's best interest to set us straight.

By the way, Richard Tanner is also the attorney for William Gordon in his lawsuit against the city over another question regarding the city charter. The latest ruling in that case by the Texas court of appeals dismissed Gordon's claim against the city. There might still be further appeals before that years-old case is finally over. Let's hope that this latest complaint doesn't take up any of the court's time at all.

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