Councilmember sues city of Galveston, Mayor Yarborough for constitutional violations

By David Yates | Mar 10, 2015

A Galveston councilmember has brought a suit alleging constitutional rights violations against the city and its mayor, James Yarborough.

Plaintiffs Tarris Woods, Brenda Eldrige, Joann Billingsly, Sonya Slate and Christopher McHenry filed their suit Monday, March 9 in the U.S. District Court for Southern Texas, Galveston Division.

The Galveston Housing Authority and GHA Commissioners Irwin “Buddy” Herz, Anthony Brown, Ann Masel, J.T. Edwards and Virginia French are also named as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are tenants at Woods Section 8 property in Galveston. Woods owns several houses and participates in GHA’s Section 8 rental voucher program, renting houses to low-income families.

On Sept. 11 GHA’s attorney advised Woods by letter all inspections of his Section 8 properties would be videotaped. Woods objected to no avail and was told if he refused to allow videotaping, he’d be dropped from the program.

Of the 805 landlords who own units under contract with GHA, including Yarborough, no other inspections have ever been videotaped, only Woods, the suit states.

“Yarborough stated on the record at the October 9, 2014 regular meeting of the City Council of the City of Galveston if he thought GHA board members were discriminating against anyone he would ask for their resignation,” the suit states.

“Yarborough has authority to remove GHA Board members. Being thoroughly informed of the facts asserted herein, Yarborough took no action. This inaction violated Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”

The suit further alleges that the GHA Board decision to videotape Woods’ property inspections was never posted on an agenda and was made outside of a public meeting in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

The plaintiffs are suing for punitive damages and court costs.

Texas City attorney Cris Rasco represents them.

Case No. 3:15-cv-00051

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