Three Hearne City Council members recently hired an attorney to assist in their efforts to require city officials to conduct a recall election of Hearne Councilwoman Maxine Vaughn.
Ty Clevenger, a Dallas-based attorney who's no stranger to the Robertson County Courthouse, was retained by councilwomen Joyce Rattler, Hazel Embra and Lashunda White -- all three of whom were elected in May -- after a petition for the recall election was filed twice, and both times with more than the required number of signatures.
The petition asserts voters have lost confidence in Vaughn and accuses her of malfeasance and incompetence.
When the petition was brought to a vote during a council meeting -- the agenda item had to be rescheduled more than once when not enough council members showed up for a vote to take place -- it failed to pass with a 3-3 vote in early September. Rattler, Embra and White voted for the recall election, while Vaughn, Councilman Michael Werlinger and Mayor Ruben Gomez, whose vote is not required, voted against it.
Clevenger said he plans to file a petition with the 10th Court of Appeals in Waco next week requesting the city be ordered to schedule a recall election, which he insisted Hearne officials are legally obligated to hold under city charter rules once a petition with enough signatures has been filed.
Hearne City Attorney Rusty Russ said the city charter states there are three grounds on which an elected official can be petitioned for removal: malfeasance, incompetence or misconduct.
The petition for recall must specifically address "each ground with such certainty as to give the officer sought to be removed notice of the matters and things with which she is charged," according to the city charter.
By that measure, the petition for removing Vaughn isn't sufficient, Russ said.
"They want to recall her because she was supporting incumbents who were running for election, that's not a crime," Russ said, referring to one of the reasons for recall listed in the petition. "The grounds they've got don't rise to the level of malfeasance, incompetence or misconduct," he said.
Russ said a petition for mandamus has already been filed by William Foster and Fredrick Henderson, leaders of the Hearne Citizens Oversight Committee, in the 82nd District Court.
If District Judge Robert Stem reviews the petition and finds the allegations in the petition are grounds for holding a recall election, then that's what will take place, Russ said.
Clevenger dismissed Russ' argument that the grounds listed in the petition for recall aren't legally sufficient and suggested Russ "is afraid he'll get fired" if Vaughn is successfully removed and replaced by someone whose votes align with Rattler, Embra and White.
Russ insisted his stake in the matter has nothing to do with the makeup of the city council. His concern is if the recall election is allowed to be held on the grounds currently asserted, any elected official could face a recall election for illegitimate reasons.
Clevenger said he's aware of the mandamus filed by Foster and Henderson -- neither of whom are lawyers. But unlike the appellate court, Clevenger argued, the district court doesn't have jurisdiction in the matter.
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