By JOHN WAYNE FERGUSON

The Daily News

GALVESTON

A Texas appeals court has denied a request made by two of the city’s mayoral candidates to have Jim Yarbrough’s name removed from the city’s May 10 ballot.

The Texas First Court of Appeals denied an election appeal made last week by a lawyer representing two of Yarbrough’s opponents in the race, Elizabeth Beeton and Don Mafrige.

In the one-paragraph opinion, the court wrote that the request to compel the city to declare Yarbrough ineligible was denied and all outstanding motions were dismissed as moot.

The dismissal decision was made by a three-judge panel consisting of Justices Evelyn Keyes, Jane Bland and Harvey Brown.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Yarbrough said he was pleased with the court’s decision.

“It kind of confirmed what I’ve been saying,” Yarbrough said. “As I’ve said from the beginning, I know I’m eligible to run, and if they want to chase it down more rabbit trails and spend more city money fighting this thing, if that’s what they want to do and not talk about the issues, it’s fine with me.”

The challenge to Yarbrough’s candidacy was centered around a homestead exemption that he had on a home in Fayette County in 2013.

The city’s charter includes a requirement that all City Council candidates meet certain residency requirements for at least one year before an election.

Last month, Mafrige produced documents through public records requests that showed that Yarbrough had not removed the homestead exemption on his Fayette County home until September 2013.

Mafrige and Beeton argued that because the exemption was in place on May 1, 2013, Yarbrough should be declared ineligible.

Yarbrough, for his part, maintained that he had always lived in Galveston, and the homestead exemption was only moved to his ranch home in Fayette County after he sold his house in Galveston in 2011.

In a response filed Monday by Yarbrough’s attorney, he said he did spend a majority of his time — four days a week — in Fayette County while on a sabbatical from October 2011 to September 2012. But, Yarbrough said that he began living full time in Galveston again in late 2012.

Yarbrough and his lawyers maintained that legally the date that the homestead exemption was removed did not matter, because it took an effective date of Jan. 1, 2013.

Yarbrough said, after removing the exemption, he paid all of the taxes associated with the Fayette County home as if the exemption never existed.

On March 12, a lawyer representing Mafrige and Beeton requested that City Secretary Janelle Williams rule on Yarbrough’s candidacy after presenting her with the new information. On March 13, Williams ruled that Yarbrough would be eligible to run.

On March 27, Beeton and Mafrige brought their argument to the court, requesting an accelerated appeal and hoping that the court would order that Yarbrough’s name be removed from the ballot.

The dismissal was announced just before 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Whether this is the last of the issue still remains unclear.

Reached Tuesday, Mafrige said he was consulting with his legal team to decide if there was another step to be taken.

Mafrige maintained that he believed his objection was a valid one, but acknowledged that a continued fight over the issue could affect voters’ opinions of him.

“I really haven’t had enough time to determine what our next step would be, in any,” Mafrige said. “If he is a candidate, I think it might affect some of the voters’ opinion of whether it was a frivolous suit or not. From our perspective, it was a very valid suit.”

Beeton, too, said she would need to consult with Mafrige and their attorneys to explore any continued challenges and said that there comes a point when an issue is left behind.

“We have already passed that point,” Beeton said. “It’s a risk to raise an issue and not get a full hearing or an explanation of what the reasoning is.”

Beeton also said she would consider Yarbrough a valid candidate for the remainder of the campaign and was ready to begin “talking about the real issues of the campaign.”

Though the dismissal was made without comment from the justices, there is a possibility that issue could result in changes to the city’s charter.

In court filings made Mondays, lawyers representing both Yarbrough and the city agreed that the way the charter is currently written, residency rules might not apply to Yarbrough or any other candidate for mayors.

The city’s charter, the lawyers argued, separates the City Council into two distinct groups, the council members and the mayor. The qualifications for each candidate are listed in separate sections of the charter.

In Section 2 of Article II, the charter declares that the residency rules should apply to council members who are elected to represent a district and who are elected “at large.”

However, as the council is currently constituted, there are no at-large positions, only district positions.

Section 7 of Article II outlines the qualifications for mayor but does not as explicitly list the residency requirements as the City Council section does.

Instead, the charter says “the incumbent ... shall possess the same qualifications as those prescribed in this Charter for a Council member.”

Since Yarbrough is not an incumbent, the lawyers argue, and is not running for a council seat, the rules for residency do not apply to him in any sense.

“It is admittedly an unhappy result to have one residency requirement for incumbent candidates for mayor and a different one for non-incumbents,” wrote Senior Assistant City Attorney Donald Glywasky in the city’s response.

The justices did not respond to that or any other argument.

“It’s always helpful when a court states (its) reasons to provide guidance if similar issues arise in the future,” said attorney Anthony Brown, who represented Yarbrough.

“However, given the very short time constraints imposed by the delay in filing, we really couldn’t expect a lengthy opinion.”

The ballots that are to be used in May’s election are scheduled to be printed Friday, according to the county election office.

Galveston’s municipal election will be held on May 10.

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

(26) comments

Jarvis Buckley

This is a big win for JY . I don't think from a political stand point it was wise to
Challenge his eligibility . He is a good man, and he has the old names and big money
On his team. It's his race to lose, the way I see it.

Robert Buckner

This made Beeton and Mafrige look like total twits. Got to work campaigning on your own merits- the both of you.

Doyle Beard

you sound like a twit. This is America its their right last time i read the constitution

Nolan Hughes

Time to stop the madness! Time to Move forward in a positive way for the good of our community and beautiful islsnd.

George Croix

The story says the request to remove Yarbrough was denied by the appeals court.
The story does not say that the request had no merit.
So, was the court's ruling made because yarbrough did in fact meet the requirements, or because evidence was inconclusive, or because it's late in the game to make a challenge, or some other reason?
I'm curious as to whether the decision was made based on legal or procedural reasons.

Mary Branum

The story stated the Court issued a one (1) sentence ruling.
How can anymore be said if that is all the Court issued.
Kind of difficult to put more into the story unless fabricated.

John Ferguson
John Wayne Ferguson

In Texas, appeals courts are not required to hand down an opinion when denying relief (Rule 52.8 of the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure). In this case, the justices did not write an opinion — as you can see in the document that was attached to the article — so the specific reasons are unknown

Robert Young

Yarborough is a good man, one of Galveston finest sons..He deserves to be on any ballot he wants in Galveston county. Galveston just can't get a more qualified,experienced,home grown candidate than this man..He is from the city and for the city. Wake up Galveston!

Steve Fouga

This was inevitable. The fix is in.

That said, my prediction is that Mr Yarbrough will be an average mayor, not bad a bad one. Galveston will elect him because Galveston always elects the safe, mediocre talent rather than reaching a bit. I believe he IS a good man, and capable. But possibly working towards someone else's agenda. I can't defend this; I just get that sense.

As I understand it, Mr Yarbrough's a man who gets things done. So within a few years the slums and their attendant crime will return to the Isle, because he'll get that done. We'll have goofy trolleys running around town, because he'll get that done. And we'll be on our way towards studying a flood/surge protection system, because that will happen no matter who's at city hall. (Galveston ain't drivin' that trolley, and never will.) Hopefully he won't succeed in eliminating parking on the south side of Seawall Blvd, because that just frickin' doesn't make sense when there's already not enough parking.

If I'm wrong about this dude, I will happily admit it. Personally, I'd like to see someone a little different -- like Mrs Beeton, rather than the same ol' same ol'.

George Croix

If this article were written by TJ I'd at least have gotten a follow-up answer to my question below by now.
Maybe the GDN could pay him extra to tutor his colleagues in the fine art of actually putting pertinent information into an article, if known, or look for it if not.

David Collins

What the Massey crowd wants most - another pro-public housing mayor.

Dorothy Holt

Name recognition and money. Politics as usual. Nothing surprising here.

william boney

Thanks to Beeton and Mafrige for wasting citizen's time, taxpayers money and newsprint on this little foray. It's unfortunate that some people, lacking substance in an issue, resort to trickery, manipulation and personal attacks - but it happens, (so don't be surprised when the negative mail starts hitting homes from either or both Beeton and Mafrige). While we've witnessed these type of actions from Beeton during her past service on city council, it should come as no surprise. The fact that Mafrige chose to align himself with Beeton, certainly lowered my opinion of him and illustrates that Mafrige is not above resorting to manipulation to further his cause . Past City Councils have been dysfunctional because of these type of actions. This should serve as proof to all - that if you're happy with how Council has been operating, you're vote is better served by supporting either Beeton first, or Marfige second.

Peggy Rapp

This is great news for the Island and its residents. I have worked with Jim Yarbrough on various beach issues when he was County Judge and I always found him to be upfront and honest, never had his own agenda, and has a true love and devotion to the citizens of Galveston. Every decision he will make will be for the good of Galveston.

Jim understands that this Island cannot survive without development and will work towards that end.

As a qualified city leader, Jim will allow and encourage the department heads to do their job and not micro-manage every aspect.

I will be proud to call him the "people's" mayor when he is elected.

Bill Quiroga

Specials interest groups, Insurance companies, bankers, title company, real estate company , hospitality industry, and the poverty industry score a big one “1”. Galveston’s residents zero “0”.

It doesn’t matter who is mayor, he is only one, he needs 3 more like him and if the voter do not study the candidates, God help Galveston!

Do you remember the fab 5 and what they did?

Jarvis Buckley

I have supported Ms. Beeton for mayor, years before she announced. I think she will do wonderful things for Galveston.a more caring and honest person , who loves the Island I do not believe you could find. I think she made a tactical error. In pursuing
The eligibility issue. I sincerely hope it doesn't cost her the election.

Steve Fouga

Jarvo, I think she and Mr Mafrige were right in contesting Mr Yarbrough's eligibility to run. I was taught years ago that if you find yourself losing, change the game. I don't mean cheat, I mean use ethical means to change the course of the contest. This is what Beeton and Mafrige did.

Maybe Mr Yarbrough's homesteading in another county and failing to transfer the homestead in time means it got lost in the shuffle when he was persuaded to run for mayor by lord knows who -- but someone.

By contesting his eligibility, Mrs Beeton has raised the specter that there's something weird about Jim Yarbrough's candidacy. And if there is, that's certainly relevant. I think she did the right thing.

I'm speculating, BTW; I have no knowledge that Mr Yarbrough is actually representing other people's interests; I'm just guessing.

[wink]

LV1951
Linda Vaccaro

Yarbrough has too much "juice" to be convicted of ANY wrong doing. IMHO [wink]

George Croix

Odd how this same act played out nearly daily at the national stage level reverses the comments sources.
The only consistency in politics is it's inconsistency.

Ana Draa

I am very glad that Mr. Yarbrough has been cleared to run, he'll be great for the island! After the way Ms. Beeton handled the problem with 2 short term rental homes in Colony Park, by repeatedly going after the livelihood of all short term rentals on the island, I could not support Ms. Beeton's candidacy. We need someone who will protect our neighborhoods by making sure existing laws are enforced, and protect our businesses by not creating unnecessary regulations, like Mr. Yarbrough!

Mary Branum

I, too, support Mr. Yarborough.
We don't need more laws or regulations on the books, we need what is already there to be enforced.

Why is it so difficult to get code enforcement to follow their own rules and get this city cleaned up?

George Croix

Those existing laws and regulations needing enforcement should mean the ones of least consequence as well as those of greater.
Folks should not get to disavow knowledge of them as a way around any consequences for not following them, at least according to the original intent of this nation's system of justice, such as it it.

Steve Fouga

IslandResident -- You said, "We don't need more laws or regulations on the books, we need what is already there to be enforced. Why is it so difficult to get code enforcement to follow their own rules and get this city cleaned up?"

I agree with everything you said, and still feel Mrs. Beeton is the better candidate. Difference of opinion.

Mary Branum

Thank you.
It is always a pleasure conversing with you. Even when we have a difference of opinion.

Lisa Blair

EB's come after the livelihood of the restaurants on 14th Street repeatedly during the last six years. I never understood why a council person wouldn't support the businesses thriving in their own district.

Steve Fouga

lisa, it's easy to imagine a council member putting the greater good of her constituents or the city as a whole ahead of certain businesses.

I don't know if this was Mrs Beeton's intent since I don't know exactly what your grievance is, but the 14th Street restaurants have certainly thrived during the past 6 years.

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