Denton’s attorney sues to prevent recall election of city council member | Denton City Council
A Denton attorney has filed a lawsuit against multiple defendants — including the city and a former city council member — over the upcoming recall election for the Denton District 4 council member.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Richard Gladden lists as plaintiffs District 4 council member Alison Maguire, who faces the recall election, and Keri Caruthers, Tracy Runnels and Emily Meisner, all former District 4 voters — now District 3 – who originally voted for Maguire. in the May 2021 election. Gladden’s lawsuit seeks declaratory relief, an interim injunction, and a permanent injunction.
The defendants are Denton City Secretary Rosa Rios; former council member Don Duff, the constituents committee representative who circulated the petition; Frank Phillips, the Denton County Elections Administrator; and the town of Denton.
“In the event Plaintiff Maguire is removed from office based on the results of the recall election scheduled for November 8, 2022, she, along with Plaintiffs Caruthers, Runnels and Meisner, all of whom are residents and voters enrollees in the former District 4…shall be deprived of equal representation on Denton City Council, with respect to all other voters in the City of Denton, for approximately 6 months,” Gladden wrote in his lawsuit. “This is so because under the applicable provisions of the Denton City Charter and the Texas Election Code, no election to fill the vacancy created by Plaintiff Maguire’s impeachment could legally be held until the next election date. ‘uniform election, which is May 6, 2023.’
According to the city, those plaintiffs are now represented by District 3 councilman Jesse Davis, and it will be the voters of Robson Ranch in District 4 who will be unrepresented for six months if Maguire is recalled.
At the time of this report, the defendants had not been served with the lawsuit.
“If one is received, it will be reviewed by the city and more information may become available in the future,” Ryan Adams, a city spokesperson, wrote in an email Thursday afternoon.
The Denton Record-Chronicle reached out to former board member Duff for comment.
“I don’t see how he has any basis [for the lawsuit]“, said Duff.”[Robson Ranch] been gerrymandered in district 4. We are district 4.
“I spoke to less than 800 people, and I didn’t spend more than 15 seconds with any of them, and 740 of them signed the petition [which is what the charter requires]. So, as far as I’m concerned, the case is closed.
“Their current constituency to represent is the people who elected them and does not change until their terms are complete,” Gladden said. “The city council cannot change constituencies before their term expires or they are dismissed or resign.”
The heart of Gladden’s lawsuit, he said, hinges on how a judge will define Article IV, 4.13 of Denton City’s charter, which states:
“… if the [recall] the petition is signed by eligible voters from the constituency of the council member whose removal is sought, equal in number to at least twenty-five (25) percent of the number of votes cast for that council member and all his or her opponents during the last general municipal election in which he was a candidate. As used herein, the term “district” refers to the electors eligible to vote for the council member whose removal is sought, either by geographic district or in general, as the case may be. »
In the lawsuit, Gladden argues that defendant Duff and the majority of Robson Ranch signatories seeking to recall Maguire are not permitted to do so because they did not vote for her in the May 2021 election. At the time, the subdivision was located in District 3. In December, the city council voted to place Robson Ranch in District 4.
The city said the redistricting went into effect immediately. But Gladden says the redrawn district lines do not change Maguire’s former District 4 constituency until his term expires in May 2023.
The city disagreed with Gladden when the Record-Chronicle asked a question that had been posed to Gladden. The question was simple: if we lived in Robson Ranch, which is now District 4, and had a problem that needed to be resolved, did we contact the representative we voted for — Jesse Davis in District 3 — or our new representative , Alison Maguire in District 4, who we didn’t vote for?
In a follow-up email Thursday, Adams wrote, “The new district boundaries went into effect upon their adoption in December. To use your example, Robson Ranch is currently part of District 4.”
So the question seems to be: do the new voters of District 4, which include those of Robson Ranch, have the right to remove a council member they did not vote for but who represents their interests?
“I think the issue is still up for debate,” Maguire said in a phone call Thursday afternoon. “It’s a very open question in this period of transition and a question to be decided by a judge.”
Maguire said the recall effort against her began long before she shared a controversial meme online in January and shortly after winning her election in May 2021. She pointed out that the city’s charter had a grace period of six months after the election of a person before a recall. can be initiated.
The effort to recall her only began to gain momentum, Maguire said, in January, shortly after the district lines were redrawing. Maguire had written and shared a social media post calling out District 6 councilman Chris Watts for not prioritizing DCTA bus ridership when he was mayor. Maguire said Watts’ inability to act caused the low attendance issues.
As mayor of Denton, Watts worked with the Denton County Transportation Authority and a nationally known transportation consultant to create the on-demand ridesharing service GoZone, which sparked complaints about long wait times and training lack of drivers. In September, Watts wrote a guest essay for the Record-Chronicle in which he introduced the GoZone plan to readers and called it “a solution that would improve service, increase convenience, and serve a larger population at lower cost than the current fixed-route bus system.”
In his January 17 post, Maguire shared a meme depicting a black man shooting another black man in a chair. The meme uses stills from a skit in The Eric André show, in which host Eric André pretends to shoot comedian Hannibal Buress, then asks who killed him. Maguire wrote down Chris Watts’ name for the person who pulled the trigger and described the DCTA bus rider as the victim.
“It’s almost like he doesn’t actually WANT to increase traffic,” she wrote in her post. “It’s almost like he REALLY wants to dig the agency into the ground so it can be privatized. Once the agency no longer provides transit, the sales tax revenue that Denton sends to DCTA can be reallocated to tax incentives. Chris Watts believes giving tax breaks to businesses is more important than building an efficient public transit system. Replacing unionized bus drivers with underpaid workers is just the icing on the cake for him.
Maguire said Thursday that Watts was trying to eliminate DCTA’s bus program and had been trying to do so for a long time.
“It’s an argument that [Denton voters] resoundingly opposed,” Maguire said. “They want to continue to have bus service in the town of Denton.”
When Duff first saw the meme on social media, he claimed he was truly offended on many levels.
“I don’t see making a point with gun violence,” he said. “Shooting a black man sitting in a chair is kind of a racial thing. He has no place here. »
Duff said he started showing Maguire’s meme to several people who he said had had similar reactions. “Oh my God, you’re kidding. It’s terrible,” he recalled saying them.
Watts, who was campaigning for the at-large Place 6 seat, was livid when he found out what a council member had posted. He appeared before city council in early February to discuss it during the public comment portion of the meeting. He pointed out that Maguire shared the meme on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and that council member Brian Beck and then-council members Paul Meltzer and Deb Armintor “liked” the post and never told him. said it was inappropriate. He described the meme for the council members, although it was also shown on the overhead projector.
“I understand it’s a popular meme and I understand it’s a celebrity,” he told council members. “But I’ve never seen a sitting board member use these kinds of images to present their political positions. … This imagery is offensive. It’s about as muted as it gets. It’s not a lack of judgment. It is non-judgmental to use images of gun violence and death to present your political position. Of all the things someone could choose, why this one?
“If these four board members worked for a private company, you would be fired almost immediately for this type of representation,” he added. “I don’t think that’s what the community expects from our elected leaders.”
Watts also pointed out that Maguire took it down and said he heard his rationale was that it was a distraction from his post about Watts and the DCTA bus ridership. He said he was worried that she and the other council members had learned nothing from the experience. He called it very self-centered if that was true and not what representation is.
“I was a victim of gun violence,” he said. “At eighteen, a guy puts a gun next to me. I figured I probably wouldn’t make it that night. But I did. So these kinds of images, regardless of whether my name is on them or not, it’s about using it to represent something and to trivialize gun violence in our country.
Watts ended his rebuttal with a quote from Martin Luther King’s speech in Washington in 1968:
“On certain positions, cowardice begs the question, is it safe? Opportunism begs the question, is it political? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is that right? And there comes a time when you have to take a position that isn’t safe, political, or popular, but you have to take it because your conscience tells you it’s right.
No hearing has yet been scheduled for the lawsuit, which has been filed in the 431st District Court.