BISD asks Judge Floyd to cancel Nov. 5 elections

David Yates Oct. 21, 2013, 1:52pm

With the Ninth Court of Appeals finding that a Beaumont judge abused his discretion by sanctioning an election in violation of Texas state law, the Beaumont Independent School District is now asking the judge to cancel the upcoming Nov. 5 election.

As previously reported, three BISD board candidates — Marcelino Rodriguez, Donna Jean Forgas and Linda Marie Wiltz Gilmor — filed a lawsuit April 30 in Jefferson County District Court against BISD and board members Woodrow Reece, Terry D. Williams, Janice Brassard, Gwen Ambres and Zenobia Randall Bush.

On Oct. 17 the Ninth Court issued its opinion, concluding “the trial court abused its discretion by approving the Board’s order and by sanctioning an election that is designed to be conducted in violation of State laws.”

“The trial court’s order, as well as the trial court’s findings and conclusions that are inconsistent with this Court’s opinion are reversed, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion,” writes Justice Hollis Horton.

Immediately following the opinion, BISD field a Motion for Orders on Election, stating that the appeals court ruled that BISD cannot hold an election on a map that does not include at large-districts, but also reiterated that the district has no power to cancel the Nov. 5 election.

Even though early voting has already begun, a hearing on the motion was held Oct. 21. Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, issued no order on whether or not the election will continue immediately following the hearing.

The litigation stems from a complaint accusing the current board members of rigging the election process to enable them to keep their seats.

In their original complaint, the plaintiffs alleged the current board failed to properly re-divide the voting districts before an upcoming election. In turn, the plaintiffs have been unable to challenge the incumbents’ seats and will not be able to do so until 2015.

Court records show on Aug. 28 the plaintiffs amended their petition to seek an injunction to stop the board’s election set for Nov. 5 – which has been called illegal by the District Attorney’s Office.

Without the backing of the county, which is responsible for providing elections, on April 29 the board voted to approve the election, electing to use school funds to pay for the endeavor.

After two hearings on the matter, Judge Floyd issued a ruling on Sept. 24, stating that the board’s decision to hold the election on Nov. 5 is proper.

The following day, the plaintiffs filed a notice of accelerated appeal, court papers say.

During a Sept. 11 injunction hearing, lead plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Truncale called the board’s election tactics something that Fidel Castro might do to stay in power.

Chad Dunn, one of the board’s attorneys, fired back, saying the plaintiffs were essentially plotting a Soviet-style installation of candidates instead of an election.

Case No. E194-295

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