Friday, November 27, 2015

Texas: Crystal City Mayor, Councilmen recall not moving forward due to "absurd" interpretation of high signature bar requirement

Crazy story here, but one that fits into the usual pattern: Efforts to recall Crystal City Mayor Ricardo Lopez and Councilmen Roel Mata and Marco Rodriguez have hit one of the usual sources of trouble -- administrative attempts to kill a recall.

The City Attorney/Manager James Jonas III (who is described as the "ultimate target of the recall" for reasons seen below), tossed out more than 1200 signatures after ruling that the petitions require more signatures based on an extremely novel interpretation of the law. Apparently (and I can't verify this info online -- Crystal City's got a big Popeye picture on the webpage, but not much else), 1931 people voted in the general election on May 9 that sets the standard for the recall. Crystal City has a requirement that petitioners get 51% of turnout, which would seem to require about 966 signatures. However, Jonas has decided to count the total votes of both council races combined as the number needed -- which is something over 3600 votes. Therefore, petitioners would need over 1800 signatures

A former Director of Elections for Texas (in the Secretary of State's office) calls the ruling "wrong" and "absurd." I can't recall a similar interpretation of the signature law, though also worth noting that the 51% requirement is extremely high.

The petition lists Jonas' contract, increasing taxes and utility fees and a failure to provide an audit. However Jonas seems to be the issue -- he is a former Republican DC lobbyist who was once jailed for failure to pay child support (he pays between $11K-$12K a month in child support). His pay is apparently three times what the town formerly spent on a city manager and part-time city attorney and his $216,000 salary is about half of the town's total $500,000 yearly property tax receipts.

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