PA calls for election to replace Freeman
Published 8:26 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Whether Port Arthur City Councilman Derrick Freeman resigns from his Position 7 seat, or opts to seek further legal council about how to proceed now that he has stated his intention to run for mayor, one thing is clear: the city is going ahead with an election.
By a vote of 8-1 City Council on Tuesday voted to call the November special election to replace Freeman, who has yet to resign his seat.
Freeman declined to say whether he would resign his post. He did indicate he would have an announcement soon.
Prior to the vote, Freeman told City Council he does not believe the statements he made to the Port Arthur News, or on Social media about his plans to run for mayor rise to what would be determined a formal declaration of his candidacy.
Without a formal announcement, Freeman argued he should not have to immediately step down from his position, as is required by a state law.
What’s known as Texas’ Resign to Run rule in the state’s election code forces an existing officer holder to resign from office before running for a new office if the amount of time left in the existing term is more than one year and 30 days.
Freeman has started his second year of the three-year term in May, leaving roughly a year and nine months before his term is completed in May 2017.
Freeman on Tuesday cited a 2008 Texas Attorney General opinion to bolster his case to keep his seat.
In the opinion, a constable planning to run for county commissioner had filled out a campaign treasurer report and noted the position he was running for. On that report where a blank asked, “office sought,” the constable wrote in “County Commissioner of Pct. 1 of Tom Green County,”
The constable further talked about his campaign in a video and passed out fliers at a meeting citing his qualifications for the job.
The AG held though one could reasonably conclude that the constable announced his candidacy, the AG’s office cannot conclude that a finder of fact would do so as a matter of law.
By not finding the constable had formerly announced his intention to run, the AG’s ruling failed to rigger the Resign to Run Rule, Freeman said.
“My case falls way short of what the AG decided,” Freeman told Council Tuesday. “I think the benchmark has already been set.”
Freeman also stated he had talked with the Jefferson County District Attorney about his case.
Freeman’s motion to ask for an AG opinion specific to his case was voted down by the Council.
In calling for the special election, City Attorney Val Tizeno said she had spent considerable time researching the situation, and it was her belief the city should follow state law.
The AG’s opinion she said, is not binding, but state law is.
“Based upon my legal opinion we re bound to follow the law,” Tisane said. “I have consulted with many attorneys and feel certain this is the appropriate course of action because we are bound by the constitution.”
District 1 Councilman Robert Scott said he believed Freeman should recuse himself from the vote because of a conflict of interest.
Freeman, Scott said, would benefit financially by continuing on as a City Council member.
Tizeno cautioned that all Council members had been schooled on what constituted a conflict of interest, and were required to make that decision themselves.
There is a criminal penalty, she said, in cases where a conflict of interest is determined.
Filing for a place on the City of Port Arthur Special/Joint Election Ballot starts immediately, on Wednesday, Aug. 19.
The last day to file one’s candidacy for the at-large Position 7 seat is Sept. 2.