The La Marque City Council agreed this week to schedule for Nov. 4 an election on the recall of Councilwoman Connie Trube.
Did the recall petitions clearly reflect the will of the people? Or is Trube being railroaded?
In this case, the city charter, which is La Marque’s municipal constitution, just isn’t clear.
Section 15 of the charter talks about the recall petition, meaning one. In La Marque, there were two.
Valeri Beverly and Lee Clark led efforts to collect signatures to recall Trube. The petitions were based on similar — but not identical — affidavits.
Under the charter, 98 verified signatures were needed to put the question of recalling Trube on the ballot.
By the city’s count, Beverly’s petition had 35 verified signatures and Clark’s had 72.
City Attorney Ellis Ortego said the city charter allows the signatures on the petitions to be added, bringing the total to 107.
The problem is Section 15 doesn’t say anything about adding numbers from separate petitions.
Olson & Olson, a law firm hired to investigate complaints, reported there had been “a pattern of inappropriate and racially insensitive statements by Trube.”
Both petitions refer to that problem. Intuitively, it seems right to allow people complaining of the same action by a City Council member to add the signatures they’ve collected.
However, a stricter interpretation of the charter would hold that if it is permissible to add signatures from separate drives — drives that started on different days and that reported results on different days, for example — that ought to be specifically stated in the charter.
The charter could be clearer.
Ironically, 10 proposed amendments to the charter are on the Nov. 4 ballot. Perhaps Section 15 is a topic for the next committee that reviews the charter.
What the charter says
Section 5.13. Recall procedure.
Any elector of the City of La Marque may make and file with the city clerk an affidavit containing the name or names of the officer or officers whose removal is sought and a statement of the grounds for removal. The clerk shall thereupon deliver immediately to the elector making such affidavit copies of petition blanks demanding such removal. The city clerk shall keep a sufficient number of such printed petition blanks on hand for distribution. Such blanks when issued by the city clerk shall bear the signature of that officer and be addressed to the city council, and shall be numbered, dated, and indicate the name of the person to whom issued. The petition blanks when issued shall also indicate the number of such blanks issued and the name of the officer whose removal is sought. The city clerk shall enter in a record to be kept in his office the name of the elector to whom the petition blanks were issued and the number issued to said person.
Section 5.14. Recall petitions.
The recall petition to be effective must be returned and filed with the city clerk within thirty (30) days after the filing of the affidavit required in Section 5.13. The recall petition for Councilman must be signed by a number of qualified electors of the district equal to at least fifty-one (51%) percent of the total number of votes cast in the last contested election held in the district in which the councilman who is being recalled was elected and in the case of the mayor, a number equal to at least fifty-one (51%) percent of the total number of votes cast in the last citywide contested election in which the mayor was elected. No petition paper shall be accepted as part of the petition unless it bears the signature of the city clerk as required in
(Ord. No. 841, § 2, 3-23-1998; Ord. No. 930, § 2, 3-22-2004)
Section 5.15. Recall election.
The city clerk shall at once examine the recall petition and if he finds it sufficient and in compliance with the provisions of this article of the charter, he shall within five days submit it to the city council with his certificate to that effect and notify the officer sought to be recalled of such action. If the officer whose removal is sought does not resign within five days after such notice the city council shall thereupon order and fix a date for holding a recall election. Any such election shall be held on the next date allowed by state law after the petition has been presented to the city council; however, such election may be held at the same time as any municipal election held within such period.