The ongoing saga of a proposed Beaumont Independent School Board election has breached another realm of uncertainty Wednesday, Sept. 11, as the community awaits the ruling of 172nd District Court Judge Donald Floyd, who has been asked to ponder the legality of a BISD-ordered Nov. 5 election. The case was brought to court by plaintiffs Donna Forgas, Marcelino Rodriguez, Linda Gilmore and Mike Neil, represented by attorneys Michael Truncale, Vann deCordova, Hubert Oxford IV and Mike Getz.
According to the plaintiffs, a Ninth Court of Appeals ruling that called for all the plaintiffs to be named as unopposed candidates for their respective school board districts utilizing a previously approved map 7b should be upheld, despite BISD’s efforts to nullify the court’s order and move forward with a new map 7i that does not include open spots for the plaintiffs.
BISD counsel Melody Chappell was tasked with offering up defense of the current school board’s attempts to circumvent the Ninth Court’s ruling, assisted by hired legal support Chad Dunn.
According to plaintiff counsel Truncale, the case before Floyd’s court “is a matter of significant public interest. It’s not about who wins or loses. It’s about having a school district that operates within the law.
“If not, we all lose,” he said.
The plaintiffs asserted that they were entitled to injunctive and equitable relief from the court, a claim flatly denied by BISD counsel.
“The Ninth Court of Appeals decision was never overruled by the Texas Supreme Court, or any other court for that matter. The mandates … still remain,” Truncale said. “BISD asks this court to ignore the law” and “comes to court with unclean hands. “We want to enjoin BISD from holding an election using their 7i map. The legal and ultimate solution for this court ... is essentially using the elec- tion order that was called by BISD in February.” BISD counsel Dunn said the plaintiffs had already failed in two other courts to get the verdict they seek from Judge Floyd. “Now they’re here seeking a third bite at the apple,” he said. “There is no equitable scenario where the plaintiffs are entitled to the relief they seek. “It is too late now to have a November election with any- thing other than 7i.” First to the witness stand in the court proceeding was Jef- ferson County District Attor- ney Tom Rugg, who said, “I consider myself to be a specialist in civil matters” as well as election law. According to Rugg’s assessment of BISD’s current election order, the school district is not within the boundaries of the law. “In order for the county to validly hold an election with the school district, there would need to be a court order for it to be legal,” he said. “There really isn’t a basis under Texas law to hold a joint election otherwise.” BISD attorneys later called plaintiff Linda Gilmore to the stand. Chappell questioned Gilmore at length about the 2011 election she lost to cur- rent trustee Gwen Ambres. Gilmore said she did not know what the outcome of any further election campaign in her new district would be, or what the end-result of the current court proceeding should be. “I’m asking the judge to look at it and tell me what my role should be,” she said. The day ended with testimony from demographer George Korbel, who testified that it was his opinion that BISD was operating under the Supremacy Clause, which would surpass all state statute. The plaintiffs assert that only state laws are applicable at this point. The court case recessed with Korbel, a $300-an-hour paid expert presented by BISD, still on the stand, and will reconvene Sept. 18 at 9 a.m.