Dear Weatherford Citizens,
I want to take this opportunity to clarify my position as it relates to the issue surrounding Ms. Wilder’s Candidacy for City Council Place 1.
This was not an issue of personal dislike or personal bias toward Ms. Wilder. This was an issue about what was the correct lawful interpretation of the Charter of the City of Weatherford as it relates to the qualifications of a candidate for City Council.
Councilman Clinton and I share like concerns in this area because of the Oath of Office we were sworn to uphold. When we took our oath of office we swore to faithfully execute the duties of the office of City Council for the City of Weatherford and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United Stated of America and the State of Texas. I restated the aforementioned items on Thursday, May 17 at the ballot drawing in front of those present at the drawing to include members of the media.
The facts that were available to us were as follows: Ms. Wilder was currently serving as a Trustee on the Weatherford Utility Board and being paid monthly by the City of Weatherford for her position. She also had filed a W-4 with the City as well as has received W-2s in the past for pay she has received. Given that information, Councilman Clinton and I agreed that she fit the definition of employee as it related to the provisions of our City Charter. Therefore, given the language in the City of Weatherford Charter pertaining to Article VII, Section 4, (a)(6) and Article IX, section 2(b) we concluded that Ms. Wilder had to resign her seat as a Trustee on the Utility Board in order to run as a candidate for City Council Place 1.
The City Manager Jerry Blaisdell, elected to postpone the drawing for position on the ballot, for City Council, Place 1 until Thursday, March 17, 2011, which was originally scheduled to take place Monday, May 14, 2011 at 5 p.m. This was done so that legal clarification could be made on whether or not the Charter was being violated as it related to Ms. Wilder’s candidacy given her current position as Trustee on the Utility Board. The drawing for City Council Place 2 was conducted on Monday, May 14, 2011 at 5 pm as scheduled. Candidate Darwin Yeary drew position one on the ballot and I drew position two on the ballot. Jeff Robinson was absent from the drawing forfeiting his opportunity to draw and received the remaining number in the hat which was position three on the ballot. When asked, the City Secretary stated she was unaware of why he was absent.
Thursday, March 17, 2011 Councilman Clinton and I were told by the City Manager that Mr. Zindia Thomas of the Texas Attorney General’s Office had given a legal opinion that Employee as it relates to the City Charter provisions in the aforementioned sections was not based on compensation but rather position. Therefore in his legal opinion Ms. Wilder could continue to hold her seat on the Utility Board while running as a Candidate for Place 1 on the City Council. This opinion differed from my Attorney’s opinion who said she would be considered an employee and would have to resign her position on the Utility Board if she elected to continue as a candidate for City Council. Some have stipulated that if Ms. Wilder was considered an employee because she received pay the same definition could be applied to the Council members because they also receive paid compensation from the City. Again, my attorney disagreed with that line of thinking. Here’s why, Council members are elected by the people of Weatherford and their terms are ended if they are not re-elected. This differs from Ms. Wilder’s position as a trustee on the Utility Board which is an appointed position made by the city council for a four year term subject to reappointment indefinitely. It must also be noted here that a legal opinion is just that, “an opinion” and differs from a legal judgment which can only be rendered by a judge in a court of law. Historical case law has many examples of cases where an attorney may have a legal opinion on a particular matter of law and the opposite of that opinion be rendered by a judge in a court of law. Councilman Clinton and I felt that to push this issue into a Court of Law would not be in the best interests of the citizens of Weatherford and could substantially delay the May Election. We agreed the best course of action was to allow Ms. Wilder to stay on the ballot and proceed with the election so that we could continue the work of the people. This point was also included in my statement on Thursday, May 17th at the ballot drawing to those persons present to include the media. Additionally, I requested that Mr. Blaisdell, the City Manager, have the ambiguous language in the Charter pertaining to this matter be rewritten in greater detail to preclude future problems of this nature. A change of the Charter would have to be voted on and approved by the Citizens of Weatherford during the next election.
I felt it was my duty as your Councilman for Place 2 to let you know these facts so that you would be fully informed on this issue and the steps taken to resolve it by your elected officials.
Councilman Place 2
*Below is a copy of the sections of the Charter outlined above in my statement to you. The applicable sections are: Article VII, Section 4, (a)(6) and Article IX, section 2(b)
ARTICLE VII. CITY COUNCIL
Sec. 4. Qualifications.
(a) Candidates. Each person who becomes a candidate for Mayor or Council member shall meet the following qualifications:
(1) be at least twenty-one (21) years of age;
(2) be a citizen of the United States;
(3) be a qualified voter of the City;
(4) reside and have resided for at least twelve (12) months preceding the election within the corporate limits of the City;
(5) no candidate may file for more than one (1) office or position number per election;
(6) no employee of the City shall continue in such position after becoming a candidate for an elective office.
ARTICLE IX. MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL OF THE
WEATHERFORD MUNICIPAL UTILITY SYSTEM*
Sec. 2. Trustees, Qualifications.
(a) An appointed trustee during his term shall be a resident citizen within the City of Weatherford, a qualified voter herein, and a customer of the Weatherford Municipal Utility System, and shall take and file the official oath of office. (This subsection reads as amended by the election held April 2, 1983)
(b) A Trustee, other than an ex-officio Trustee, shall not hold any other public office except Notary Public. A Trustee shall disqualify him or herself if the Trustee fails to attend more than three (3) consecutive regular monthly meetings of the Board, unless, immediately after the absence, a sworn statement that he or she was prevented by….
I agree completely. Any charter that says a citizen has to forfeit their right to run for any office they damned well please without costing their livelihood should be amended to remove such offensive language.