First, let's dispose of the dry, legal matters. As widely expected, the report of the outside legal counsel, George A. Staples, Jr, to the Richardson City Council found no violations of the city charter, the code of ethics, or state law regarding the actions of Mayor Laura Maczka or the city council in the Palisades zoning case or in the mayor's decision not to serve another term.Dorothy: "Oh - You're a very bad man!"
Wizard: "Oh, no my dear. I'm a very good man.
I'm just a very bad Wizard."
Source: L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
I say "as widely expected" because before the report, few seemed to be in doubt about what the report might conclude, or, for that matter, in doubt about whether a legal violation occurred. One side was convinced she was guilty but assumed the fix was in. The other side realized that in all the public cries of foul play, no one had matched up a particular misbehavior with a particular law that the behavior violated.
As "the other side" knew, exchanging emails with a party to a zoning case is not a violation of any law. Having a personal relationship with a party to a zoning case is not a violation. Voting in a way that benefits friends is not a violation. On the other hand, having a financial interest in land or a company involved in a zoning case would be a violation, but the outside legal counsel found no evidence of that prior to March, 2015, when Maczka filed a conflict disclosure.
But the mayor is not necessarily home free. The outside legal counsel did point out that a reporter appeared to have an email from the mayor that was not part of the emails provided to the outside legal counsel by the city. It is possible that the mayor's failure to provide such communications, if genuine, may be a violation of the Texas Public Information Act. This would be a question for the District Attorney, were a formal complaint be filed.
The Mayor Speaks
What wasn't predictable about the council meeting was that the mayor herself was going to make a statement, nor what would be in that statement. Mayor Maczka gave what I considered to be a moving explanation of the circumstances in her private life (divorce, health issues, mortgage refinance) that overlapped with the calendar for filing and running for re-election. She was convincing that it was this perfect storm of life events that led to her decision not to serve another term, not any conspiratorial scheme to deny the voters their right to elect the next mayor.
The legal counsel concluded, "While the facts in this case do not reveal a cognizable violation of the Code of Ethics, it is certainly understandable that the sum of the Mayor's actions would be viewed by the public as offending the overriding interest of the Code of Ethics." Now it's me speaking: Maczka's behavior during the Palisades rezoning case, while not illegal, simply did not serve the residents of the City of Richardson well.
That leaves me with the quote at the top of this blog post. The mayor's personal troubles must surely have been challenging. Whether she handled them well is a personal matter, between her and her family, and one that I am loathe to judge her or anyone on. But I will judge her public performance as mayor. She may possibly be a good person. But she's a very bad Wizard.