Whether the Beaumont Independent School District Board of Trustees will be able to conduct a Nov. 5 election the way it has planned is now in the hands of the Texas 9th Court of Appeals, as a group of potential candidates for the trustee seats are petitioning the court to enforce a ruling made by the same judges in April of this year.
The 9th Court of Appeals had previously ruled that Marcelino Rodriguez, Donna Forgas, and Linda Gilmore be placed on the ballot as unopposed candidates for the BISD trustee seats in districts 1, 2, and 3 when BISD first called for a school board election slated for May 2013 utilizing a map dubbed 7b. BISD subsequently canceled the May election. Current BISD trustees serving districts 1, 2, and 3 (Terry Williams, Zenobia Bush and Woodrow Reece) contend their seats are not up for contest as the trustees’ terms do not expire until 2015.
Just this past week, 172nd District Court Judge Donald Floyd ruled in favor of BISD assertions in the ongoing election battle.
“BISD made timely and diligent efforts to obtain preclearance but same was not received in time to have an election in May 2013,” Floyd decided. “In accordance with the D.C. Court’s order and oral instructions, BISD canceled the May 2013 election and rescheduled same for November 2013.
“The D.C. federal court ruled that it was ‘appropriate’ for BISD to reschedule the election for November 2013 and found that it was appropriate for BISD to begin the election process anew.”
Floyd further asserted that any ruling granted in favor of Forgas, Rodriguez and Gilmore was now moot as “the writ presumed and addressed a May 2013 election, which did not occur.” Since the April ruling, BISD has commissioned a new map 7i.
In addition, Floyd noted that the plaintiffs in the litigation against BISD “cannot demonstrate that BISD’s conduct is illegal. Plaintiffs argue that state law states that BISD’s election cannot be held in November of 2013. Though state law plainly requires BISD’s election on a different date, it is now impossible to comply with the statute. The choices are to wait until the next election more than a year off or reschedule the election as soon as reasonably possible.”
Therefore, the judge ruled, “The Court finds no evidence to support delaying the election any longer.”
In closing, Floyd prayed for harmony in the BISD Board of Trustees election process, and an end to the court battles.
“But for obstructions to the election erected due to the disagreement concerning the election’s lawfulness, BISD has retained its own election officials to administer the election,” he wrote in his official findings. “Hopefully this Court opinion will resolve that issue and all affected agencies will begin to work harmoniously to ensure the election proceeds.”
A briefing schedule in relation to the Court of Appeals filing of Sept. 25 was not available as of press time.
According to the plaintiff’s attorneys, the Texas Election Code is on their side. However, as a working case filing for the Court of Appeals contends, “BISD took multiple actions to cancel and sweep away completely the election it ordered on Feb. 21, 2013,” contrary to the state’s election laws.
“BISD then on Aug. 15, 2013, ordered a wholesale different election to occur on Nov. 5, 2013, and according to its newly adopted – albeit illegal – election districts. These material, relevant facts are not in dispute.
“As a result of BISD’s illegal conduct, it should come as little surprise that (plaintiffs) herein are being wrongfully denied their rights under the Texas Election Code.”
“This is the end of the road,” plaintiff attorney Mike Getz said. “The 9th Court of Appeals will be the final stop. I feel very comfortable with this going before that court, and I think this will be done on a very expedited basis.
“I think the court will rule the district had no legal right to order map 7i drawn; and I think they will order BISD to use map 7b that they voted on before all this happened.”