Friday, April 25, 2008

Lawsuit bid to take Denton mayor, two others off ballot fails

By LOWELL BROWN - Denton Record-Chronicle - April 22, 2008

A district judge on Monday allowed Denton Mayor Perry McNeill and two other candidates to remain on the May 10 ballot, after a lawsuit challenged their eligibility.

Visiting Judge David Evans said he would not intervene in an election that is under way. Early voting in the City Council races starts Monday, but city officials said they already sent out two absentee ballots.

The judge did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit, which alleges that Mr. McNeill, Mayor Pro Tem Pete Kamp and former council member Mark Burroughs would violate the city's term limits by winning another term.
The charter prevents council members from being elected to more than three consecutive two-year terms. But city attorneys say term limits do not carry over to council members who run for a different seat, including mayor, or sit out a term.

Judge Evans said future hearings could address broader issues in the case, such as how to interpret the city charter's three-term limit.

Also, the judge's decision would not prevent candidates from contesting the election after votes are cast, as the state election code allows.

Michael Whitten, an attorney for the city, said the decision did not surprise him.

"I felt all along that the law was such that no judge would have taken these candidates off the ballot," Mr. Whitten said.

Mike Sutton, Ms. Kamp's opponent for at-large District 5, expressed frustration over the decision. Mr. Sutton, who is one of five plaintiffs in the case, filed separate litigation last week challenging Ms. Kamp's eligibility. That case is pending before the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth.

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