Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Charter Amendment Upheld By Court

ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that judgment be rendered in favor of the Contestee, Mayor Steve Mitchell. ... This is a final, appealable Judgment disposing of all claims against parties.
Source: Honorable Gene Knize.
Whoa... "Mayor" Steve Mitchell? Isn't the current mayor Bob Townsend? Isn't the new mayor going to be Amir Omar or Laura Maczka? Wasn't the former mayor Gary Slagel? It turns out that "Mayor" Steve Mitchell is not a typo here. Steve Mitchell was mayor of Richardson from 2007-2009. A little bit of history that has been bouncing around our legal system for what seems like forever needs to be disposed of before we can devote all of our attention to the upcoming council election.

After the jump, an important court ruling on an old legal case.



The legal case involves the Richardson election to change the city charter. No, not the 2012 charter change that imposed direct election of the mayor. The housecleaning here deals with the charter change the voters adopted in 2007 to impose term limits on the city council and to allow council meetings to be held off-site and in executive session as specified by state law.

Cheri Duncan-Hubert sued the city over that 2007 election. I'm not going to try to restate her claims or the court's findings of fact and law. You are free to go and research the history to your heart's content. (Go to the court's website and search on case DC0714663.) All I'm going to do here is report that the Honorable Gene Knize of the 14th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, on January 31, 2013, issued final judgment in case DC-07-14663, Cheri Duncan-Hubert vs Mayor Steve Mitchell. The most important sentences from the ruling are in the excerpt above.

So, is this finally over and done with? Maybe. Note that the judgment says it's "appealable." Stay tuned. Sigh.

10 comments:

mccalpin said...

It is perhaps ironic that on Feb 3rd, the Morning News published a piece by Megan Strickland on how members of the State Legislature are trying to change the laws that require local government notifications to be in the local paper in general circulation, to laws that these notifications be posted on the local government's website.

The argument is that newspaper readership is declining, and that it is an unnecessary (and not very productive) expense to place notifications in a medium that 75% of the citizens no longer bother to read.

I say this because this was the only part of Ms. Duncan-Hubert's lawsuit that had any merit at all - that the City didn't place two notifications in the paper prior to the election, but just one.

For clarity's sake, note that Charter elections are the only elections, as for as I know, in which a municipality has to do two notices and not one. Since the requirement for two notices is in a completely different part of the State Codes from all the other notice requirements, it is without a doubt that this was an oversight on the part of the City - in fact, following the law literally would have been cheaper than what the City actually did.

And what did the City do? The City did one newspaper notice and two mailings of the Charter change text and stories on the election in Richardson Today - which is mailed to every postal address in the City. As the judge noted, the City ended up notifying a lot more people of the election than a simple following of the law would have.

It's true that the changes being discussed in Ms. Strickland's article have to do with notice on a website and not mailings, but it's clear that courts are already recognizing the inadequacies of the existing law as technology and social habits change.

Bill

Sassy Texan said...

Bill,

It was not an oversight by the City. Actually, the City's attorney did tell the Judge it was too expensive.

CDH

mccalpin said...

"Actually, the City's attorney did tell the Judge it was too expensive."

Cheri, are you saying that the City's attorney said that it was too expensive to post two notices in the paper, with the implication that the City refused to do the second posting for that reason?

Bill

Mark Steger said...

I am not a lawyer, but Google is my friend. I found this paragraph in a Texas Attorney General opinion:

"The courts have held that the election laws, even though they may be mandatory in form, are construed as directory in the absence of fraud or unless the departure or irregularity has effected or changed the results of the election. Whiteside v. Brown, 214 SW.2d 844 (Tex.Civ.App 1948, error dis.); Minthorn v. Hale, 372 SW.2d 752 (Tex.Civ.App 1964 no writ)."

Again, I am not a lawyer, but in this specific regard, the judgment in this case seems entirely consistent with the Atty General's opinion and prior case history.

Sassy Texan said...

I am not a lawyer either, but I was in the courtroom. So in context, there was a gradual progression of information you are no aware of.

And to Bill, Yes, that is what she said to the Judge in the Oct hearing.

CDH

mccalpin said...

"It was not an oversight by the City. Actually, the City's attorney did tell the Judge it was too expensive."

Without the context in which this statement was made, we can't tell what was meant.

So, to repeat, did the City's attorney say that the City refusing to pay for the second public notice wasn't "an oversight" and that the City refused to follow the law because it was "too expensive"?

Considering that it costs a lot more to do a printing and mailing of Richardson Today than a legal posting in the Morning News, this doesn't even make sense.

I have to believe that if she said this, it was in a different context and meaning.

Bill

Sassy Texan said...

Bill,

They did not file the first one either. At least in the context of the written law. And that is what counts.

As I said before, you were not there to know what did or did not go on. So your opinion is just that. Your opinion. In context, if the law is directory for some and not for others, there is a level of unhealthy lawlessness brewing that your very liberal justifications prove out.

So it makes sense the violations to the charter for all these many years were of little consequence. And they still exist today.

Lawlessness is not an honorable position, nor an ethical or responsible one.

CDH

Andy said...

CDH,

I am lucky i wasn't drinking a beverage when I read the following comment:

"Lawlessness is not an honorable position, nor an ethical or responsible one."

Andy Gross

Sassy Texan said...

Well Andy, I am happy you have your drinking under control.

CDH

Sassy Texan said...

Bill,

The City has admitted in Facts of Law and Judge accepted they did not make proper notification in a newspaper of general circulation. Either time. The Judge also said the Richardson Today is not a newspaper, it is a newsletter. That is when he said at the December hearing the City was "absolutely non-compliant with statute".

Does that answer your question more to your liking?

CDH