Councils that bypass the system of checks and balances, forming cliques, often continue their descent of improper behavior, even to the point that they decide to cancel elections. It happened in Garland in 2006.
Let Us Vote!
On May 15, 2004, voters from across
Garland went to polls to approve
council representatives, bond proposals,
and Charter changes. One Charter
change was to make council member
terms two years instead of three.
The change was approved by 82.04%
of voters across the city.
3, 2005, five members
of the current city council chose
to ignore the change and the overwhelming
will of the voters. They refused to call the election that strongly
affected all of them except Harry
Hickey. For two, Michael Holden
and Weldon Bradley, they were reaching
their term limits. For two others,
Terri Dunn and John Garner, their
decision saved them from an election
and gave themselves an extra year
The history leading to
this conflict between the Charter
and the personal
opinions of five council members
was brief but significant. Council
will usually discuss if changes
need to be made to the Charter
each legislative session to assure
the Charter is in line with state
law. Several state law changes
prompted discussions of creating
Review Committee. Each council
member appointed someone to the
During council discussions
of what should be sent to the Committee
for consideration, Michael
changing terms from three years
back to two. He said, "There’s
a good reason why the legislature
elects every other year." This
was a surprise to many since
voters had changed terms to
three-year-terms just three
years earlier in 2001.
Committee considered Holden’s
recommendation and in a 7-2
vote approved recommending
it to the council,
only Hickey’s and Jim
appointments voting against.
Discussions were lengthy as
to when the change
should take effect. After careful
analysis, the committee decided
9-0 to recommend the change
the next election, that year
Whatever way the change was
implemented, district terms
were to be affected.
Some scenarios would have
some members that could serve only
and others would have six
Other scenarios would force
some to serve only one year
having to run again. Only
by making the
change effective in 2004
could a semi-equitable change-over
Every district would
that could serve up to
five years before there would
a change. There would be
no one-year adjustment
was an exception
to the five-year limit
because he was
the only one that had served
a partial term of less
than one year.
The Committee recommended
several changes to the
the term change to two
years, at the council work session
2, 2004. Lengthy discussion
with the committee covered
scenarios and feelings
Special Work Session
a specially-called work session on
February 10, the council discussed
multiple scenarios among themselves
as they sought consensus on what
to present or to not present to
voters. In a 7-2 vote on whether
to change terms from three years
to two, Holden, Bradley, Jackie
Feagin, Mayor Day, Sharon Stotts,
and Randall Dunning voter in favor.
Jim Dunn and Hickey voted against.
next question was when to begin
the change. Three choices were advanced:
2004, 2005, and 2007. The 2004
would require the change at the
next election if approved by the
but would preserve annual elections.
The 2005 choice would allow
those elected in 2004 to serve
years but would force every district
the mayor to be elected every
two years, with the potential
the whole council could turn over
one time. The 2007 change would
have preserved annual elections
have delayed implementation for
three years, with the possibility
Charter review in the interim.
council chose to have the change effective at the election
in 2004 by a 5-4 vote. Those voting for
the 2004 changeover were: Holden,
Feagin, Stotts, and Monroe. Those
choosing another year were: J.
Dunn, Hickey, Day, and Dunning.
City Attorney Cautions
to the discussions was a caution
from then city
attorney, Charles Hinton, that
such a change
would be unfair to those about
file for election whom he felt
would be entitled to three-year-terms.
The council chose not
to follow that
advice in their choice of 2004.
On February 12, the city attorney
a memorandum to the council
challenging their intent and advising
he thought making the change
effective then would be improper.
February 17, 2004, the council unanimously approved an ordinance
ordering the question of
limits be placed on the ballot
consideration and that the
changeover be effective "upon
and after May 15, 2004,"
language drafted by the city attorney.
consideration of an election
would not begin
of the same year. Because
some declaring they considered
themselves elected to three-year
terms in 2004
rather than two years,
the council considered the question
a 2006 election at its
3, 2005, work session.
In questioning of the city attorney
stated that the Charter did provide that elections
be called in 2006.
Five voted to not
call the election and four were
against were: Holden,
T. Dunn, Hickey, Bradley,
and Garner. In favor
were: Day, Chick, Monroe, and
voting against had previously
voted in favor of the
authorized sending the
question to the voters.
Seeking an official vote, a public
hearing was called for November 15
and after lengthy testimony from
citizens, the council again
failed to call an election by the same 5-4
vote. A subsequent motion to seek
an Attorney General opinion was approved
7-2, T. Dunn and Hickey voting against.
The Attorney General would later
decline to offer an opinion because
of pending litigation on the matter.
December 15, four citizens, one
from each of the districts scheduled
to have an election in 2006, filed
suit in the Fifth District
Court of Appeals seeking a writ of mandamus
ordering an election.
city council hired outside counsel
the five opposing
2006 Election. In their response
to the suit, they argued, among
various other things, that the voters had
no standing to challenge them and that the matter was not yet "ripe"
(that there was still time for them
to call an election).
On Feb 8, 2006,
the court dismissed
the suit as not being ripe.
Since mandamus requests require expedient
action, this action was interpreted
by the Let Us Vote! group as
a necessary court action under
and a directive to perfect
case before re-filing.
February 21 and again on March 7,
with extensive public testimony
on the question of calling
an election. Four consistently
of elections, Day, Chick,
Monroe, and Dunning. Only three of
that had voted against elections
were present at these meetings
and each refused to even
under the City Charter an abstention is recorded
as a "no"
vote. The March 7 meeting
was the last possible meeting to
call the election
by the state-mandated
Second Suit Filed
On March 8, Let Us
Vote! filed its second suit
a writ of
mandamus. The next day the
court ordered the city to respond
one week. The city did so and
the day after that the court
oral arguments for March 23,
one week later. Before a packed
with several forced to stand,
attorneys from both sides presented
arguments and addressed questions
24, just two weeks and two days
after the suit
Court granted the writ
of mandamus and ordered the city council
to call an election no later
The court said, "… the
voters approved an amendment
to the city charter providing
for the mayor and council
members and further providing
term lengths would become
and after May 15, 2004.'
We conclude this amendment clearly
required that individuals
elected to the positions
of mayor or city council
or after May 15, 2004’ would
serve a two-year term. Under
these circumstances, the
duty of the city
council to call an election
in 2006 or city council seats
filled in the
May 15, 2004 election was 'clearly fixed and required
4, the council met in special
session and ordered
election for June 17. All present
voted in favor. Hickey