GALVESTON — A lawyer representing two mayoral candidates has asked the city secretary to determine Jim Yarbrough’s eligibility to run for mayor.

In the letter sent Tuesday, Houston attorney Mark L.D. Wawro claimed to have public records conclusively establishing that Yarbrough is ineligible to be in the mayoral race.

The document Wawro referred to is a Sept. 8, 2013, letter Yarbrough sent to Richard Moring, the chief appraiser of the Fayette County Appraisal District, asking that a homestead exemption be removed from Yarbrough’s ranch home in an unincorporated part of Fayette County.

Galveston’s city charter requires that council candidates have a “principal physical residence” in the city for at least one year before an election. The same section of the charter reads that for an address to qualify as a “principal physical residence” that candidate must not claim a homestead exemption on any property other the one they list as their principal one.

In the his letter, Wawro lays out the argument that because Yarbrough had a homestead exemption on a home outside of Galveston on May 10, 2013, he is not eligible to run in this year’s election.

The legal argument also parses out a difference between the city secretary’s ability to determine residency — which is defined differently in the state code than it is in the charter — and to determine eligibility.

“The question with respect to Mr. Yarbrough’s candidacy is not his residency as that term is used in the Texas Election Code, but his eligibility for office in accordance with the requirement of the Galveston City Charter,” Wawro wrote.

Janelle Williams, the city secretary, has said previously that she does not have the ability to declare a candidate ineligible and that the city is not able to look beyond information included on a ballot application to determine eligibility.

Wawro disputes that.

A city spokesperson said Wednesday that Williams had not yet responded to Wawro’s letter.

Yarbrough claims that while the exemption was removed in September, it was made to be effective as of Jan. 1, 2013. He said he has paid all of the taxes on his Fayette County home as if the homestead exemption never existed.

On Wednesday, Yarbrough said he welcomed an official review of his eligibility.

“The issue needs to be resolved now, so I welcome the scrutiny of it,” Yarbrough said. “We do not need to go through an election with this cloud hanging over everything.”

Last week, Mafrige confirmed to The Daily News that he had been researching Yarbrough’s property tax history and was considering officially challenging Yarbrough’s placement on the ballot. Wawro’s letter includes an affidavit from Logan Jack, whom Mafrige identified as a campaign employee. In the affidavit, Jack says that he made a public records request with the Fayette County Appraisal District to obtain Yarbrough’s request to remove the exemption.

The Daily News obtained the same letter through its own records request on Monday.

On the same day Mafrige confirmed his inquiries, Beeton denied to a Daily News reporter that she had been researching the topic as well. Reached Wednesday, she said it Mafrige who approached her about his concerns.

“He approached me with the results,” Beeton said. “I felt like what he had found was evidence of ineligibility and I didn’t think it was fair he would have to carry that by himself, so I volunteered to join him.”

Wednesday’s letter clearly represents the challenge as a shared action. 

Wawro said he was hired jointly by Mafrige and Beeton. He added that he had a personal history with Beeton, which included working in the same law office years ago.

Despite claims in the letter, Mafrige acknowledged that it might take a higher authority to determine the final outcome of the challenge.

“This is not the end of this thing, this is just the beginning,” Mafrige said. 

“I think it will probably go to court, and a judge will eventually make a decision on whether we have a sound question or not.”

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

(14) comments

Miss Priss

Is someone going to question the eligibility of Mafrige to run without his toupe?

Robert Young

At the time of filing to run for office did a May 10th 2013 homestead exemption for Mr. YARBOROUGH exist? ...no.

Jarvis Buckley

Ms. Ms. Beeton should steer clear of this , let the other two fight it out. She should stick to how she is going to make the island a better place for everyone. This has been going on ,on this island since
The early 1900's . We need a fresh approach. I hope EB doesn't disappoint her supporters.

Ana Draa

Doesn't surprise me one bit that Ms. Beeton is involved with this.

Jarvis Buckley

Ms. Beeton is a very moral person with extreme integrity. It is doubtful she is "involved" with
This. She's not a mud wrestler.

Bill Quiroga

Is Yarbrough good for Galveston?

Mr. Dolph Tillotson wrote an article entitle “Their job is to control spending” August 29, 2004, this is a must read.

Quoting Mr. Tillotson’s, “Increasing spending by 80 percent over just six years is plainly unacceptable. It’s sloppy and a sign of bad management.”

Does Galveston need this?

Raymond Lewis

Jarvo, Ms Beeton may not be a mud wrestler but she sure is one who creates mud such that mud wrestling can take place while demurely standing by and saying "it wasn't fair for him to go it alone". Then joined the fray with a former law colleague no doubt.

Lisa Blair

yes, some of you don't know EB very well

GW Cornelius

Jimbo is not only eligible per State Law , but the best person for the job. EB has done enough to tear Galveston apart and ruin the city. Time for a builder to head the council.

Jarvis Buckley

I certainly have no problem with JY . Like I said seems like a good man, and could handle the job.
I just think EB has handled herself so well ,while being attacked from all sides. I think she's the best person for the job. Time will tell. Not just anyone can be Mayor of Galveston. Generally have to have a street named after your family, or be friends with someone that does. I expect it to get really ugly,
Because no doubt she is the front runner. What ever it takes to tear her apart will be tried. Like
I have said before she is not a politician and she is a person of the highest integrity.

Richard Moore

I could see a Yarbrough campaign series about his opponents based upon "Ned in the first reader"!

Ron Shelby

His opponents had their lawyer ask the city, and now they got their answer. He's eligible.

This tact that beeton and Mafridge's have taken seems to indicate how they feel they measure up to Yarbrough in both skills and experience. No one can deny that the family has been a fixture in this community forever, and has given a lot to the community through public service. To try and disqualify him as if he were some sort of carpet bagger is a low blow and disrespectful to a family that's done a lot for the island.

Chris DeVries

Jarvo, you seriously think Elizabeth is the front runner? Uh, ok.

Hey, all she's good at is beng against things. Never offers original, constructive, positive ideas for Galveston. She's great at tearing things apart while appearing to be neutral. Good old liberal, hippie, sixties-radical way of tearing down the system.

I think Jim and Don could have a great time offering competing visions of how Galveston can prosper. Both have met a payroll, understand profit and the virtues of building and running businesses - and employing people and paying taxes. Give me one of them any day, vs. a person who has no understanding or appreciation of what it takes to start and/or run a successful business.

Jarvis Buckley

I base my thoughts on watching her for six years on the televised city council meetings witch only exist
Because of her relentless efforts for the public rights to know. I really know nothing about her personal life ,except I believe her husband and JJ were partners at one time in a law firm. Not sure of that. JJ
Told me both their kids went to same college. She is always so well informed.Willing to do the right
Thing no matter what. She is definitely not a politician. Big money is against her. And by the way
I don't believe she is a hippie but if she is, so be it. I believe for the first time in a long time we have
Three quality candidates. Have hope for the future. A little concerned about JY 's back slapping,
Back room ways. But he is very qualified . That can't be denied.

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