Thursday, November 26, 2009

Be there or be square.

Dear Richardson Residents and Tea Party Friends,

I believe the reason we are contending with such corruption and misappropriation of power at the highest levels of government is because we did not involve ourselves properly to stop it at the lowest levels of government.

You will have an opportunity on Tuesday, December 1st to attend a court hearing at the Fifth District Court of Appeals that involves our City of Richardson and one of its citizens, Mr. William Gordon, who has taken the city to court because of its neglect to follow its own City Charter.

The case began back in October 2007.  It is fundamentally a case about a City government that believes it can do whatever it wants to do, regardless of rules established in the City Charter by its residents, including conduction closed meetings with no transparency to voters.

Benjamin Franklin once said, "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security."  It is important that the City and the Court see just how important this case is to those of us who care about Richardson, and how our rights and liberties are being so poorly protected by City officials.

The Hearing will take place on the second  floor of the George Allen Courthouse Building located at 600 Commerce Street in downtown Dallas at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, December 1st.  This white multi-story building is directly south of the beautiful Old Red Courthouse.  There is underground parking available underneath Old Red with the entrance on Commerce Street at Houston Street.

If you can take the time to come and support this citizen, William Gordon, who is merely trying to ensure that his city follows its charter, conducts its business in legal and transparent fashion and for the benefit of all of the citizens...not just the select few who have for decades enjoyed the special perks and privilege reserved for those in the "In Crowd" in Richardson; please come downtown and stand with him to bring honesty and transparency back to our local municipal government.

Should you desire more information, more detailed background information is provided below.  Please pass this information on to other Richardson residents.

“It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error.”  Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson

16 comments:

  1. Someone needs to tell Gary that the fat lady is warming up.

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  2. I SHORTENED THE POST - HERE IS THE ADDITIONAL INFO I TOOK OUT.


    BACKGROUND INFORMATION

    In October 2007, William Gordon, a resident and community leader in Richardson , filed a lawsuit against the City of Richardson .

    The Problem

    Mr. Gordon had been attending work sessions of the City Council for several years and had noticed a disturbing trend. The City Manager and his staff would present recommendations and information to the City Council, there would be little discussion, if any, and no debate, and then the Council would vote, sometimes 6-1, with City Councilman Jim Shepherd the lone dissenting vote, but usually 7-0. How could there be such unanimity without discourse? And then it dawned on him that at almost every work session, the Council and City Manager would go into a closed session in which he and others were not allowed to attend.

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  3. Mr. Gordon then looked at the City Charter, and discovered that Section 3.10 of the Charter read, "All meetings of the Council and all committees thereof shall be open to the public ..." No exception. No closed meetings allowed.

    Under the Open Meetings Act, Section 551.087: Deliberations Regarding Economic Development Negotiations reads that a closed meeting is allowed, "to discuss or deliberate regarding commercial or financial information that the government body has received from a business prospect that the governmental body seeks to have locate, stay, or expand in or near the territory of the governmental body and with which the governmental body is conducting economic development negotiations; or to deliberate the offer of a financial or other incentive to a business prospect. .. "


    However, in all situations in which the Council met in closed session to which Mr. Gordon was asked to leave such meetings, there was nothing received from a "business prospect" for which deliberation was required. No "offer" was extended. No "negotiations" were taking place.

    Additionally, except for the City Council and the City Attorney, the only other people who can attend an executive session are "officers and employees of the governmental body whose participation is necessary to the matter under consideration." However, Mr. Gordon consistently saw individuals who were not "officers and employees" of the city be invited into closed meetings of the Council.

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  4. Another example of the Council's approach to transparency occurred on October 27, 2006, when the Richardson City Council convened a meeting in Austin , Texas at the Hilton Austin, 500 E. Fourth Street . This too was in violation of the City Charter, which Section 3.08 read, " ... all meetings of the Council shall be held in the Municipal Building ..." There was no exception to the meeting location requirements in the City Charter. By conducting a meeting hundreds of miles away from the city limits of Richardson , the Council could not possibly provide its citizens with a "reasonable opportunity to be heard," which was a requirement of the Charter as well.

    Moreover, the agenda for the meeting included a single bullet for the executive session (the part of the meeting closed to the public). The bullet read, "Deliberation Regarding Economic Development Negotiations". Under this bullet is a single sub-bullet, which read, "Incentive discussion - U.S. 75 and DART Light Rail Corridor between Renner Road and Spring Valley ".

    Received from the City Secretary, as a result of an information request, were executive session briefing packets that were handed out to Council members and discussed at the Retreat in the closed session. One of these was a packet that addressed the Tax Increment Finance District, and another was in regards to Centennial Park . These items were not on the agenda, but they were discussed at the meeting. A vague reference to "Deliberation Regarding Economic Development" is not sufficient public notification as to what was actually discussed.

    But Mr. Gordon noticed that this kind of activity was happening more and more; transparency and trust seemed to be alien concepts to the Council, the City Manager, and the City Attorney. And the only way to stop it was via a lawsuit.

    The City's Response

    The lawsuit started with the 68th Judicial District Court in Dallas , where the judge ruled in favor of Mr. Gordon in regards to jurisdiction. The City filed an appeal with the Fifth District Court of Appeals. One of the City's arguments is that the case is no longer viable as a result of the Charter amendments that were ratified by voters on November 6, 2007.

    The City Council's response to Mr. Gordon's threat of a lawsuit was to quickly pull together amendments to the Charter that would allow them to legally do everything they wanted to, everything which they were previously doing illegally. In an election in which less than 7.5 percent of registered voters in Richardson voted, the amendments passed. A separate lawsuit was filed against the City as a result of this election, and is currently pending.

    A few remarks about this election: First, the election does not negate their illegal activity prior to the election. Decisions were made that may not have been made if there had been transparency. All these decisions and the facts behind them need to be revisited.

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  5. Second, the City Attorney and City Staff were commissioned by request of the City Council to review the Charter, and then provide the Council with a report thereafter, which included proposed changes to the Charter. There are limited ways to change the City Charter, one of which is by means of a Charter Commission. The mandate of the Council to the City Attorney and City Staff appear to be nothing less than a Charter Commission. The City argues otherwise, but it is clear that they did exactly what a Charter Commission is tasked with doing.

    The problem is that they met privately, and provided no public access or input into the process by which the proposed amendments were formulated. Under Article 3 of the City Charter, City Council, Section 3.10 read, "All meetings of the Council and all committees thereof shall be open to the public and the rules of the council shall provide the citizens of the city shall have a reasonable opportunity to be heard in any such meetings, in regard to any matter there considered."

    Please note that the only previous amendments to the Charter occurred in 1989, at which time, 12 individuals were named to a Charter Commission. Public hearings were conducted by the Commission, in which, according to the Dallas Morning News, at least 20 peopled shared ideas with them from one meeting alone. In a headline on the front page of the Richardson Daily News at the time there reads in large type, "Charter changes called for - Citizens request 'maximum democracy'.

    Contrast this with how the City executed these amendments in 2007, in which a Commission comprised of the City Attorney and City Staff (the City Manager) proposed amendments to the Council, and completely dismissed the prior request for "maximum democracy" with two propositions that enabled closed meetings of the Council with no limitations, and the right to conduct meetings anywhere worldwide, far from the prying eyes of Richardson residents. This is not hyperbole, this is fact. The City of Richardson no longer has the open government it once had, and how it happened is open to question and concern.

    These changes to the Charter were ramrodded through quickly as a result of Mr. Gordon's lawsuit.

    Third, political advertising by the Council advocating passage of the amendments is in direct violation of Section 255.003 of the Election Code. Now keep in mind that a mailer was sent to Richardson residents, with large bold letters that read, "Vote FOR Richardson Amendment Propositions 1 & 2." Names listed on the mailer included 6 of the 7 council members, including the mayor.

    Interesting, this political ad was paid for by Richardson Citizens for Charter Change, an unregistered organization whose address was listed as 411 Belle Grove, Richardson , Texas 75080 . This is the same address, coincidentally, as the Richardson Chamber of Commerce. Keep in mind that executives of the Chamber had earlier been recognized by the Council as "officers and employees" of the City by the very fact that they were allowed to participate in closed meetings of the Council.

    This is just another example of the lack of transparency and trust of our Richardson City Council.

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  6. Thanks for all the great information. I am bringing a car load of people to support Mr. Gordon.

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  7. Thanks Destiny. Good job there. Hopefully more than just a handful of people will learn of this.

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  8. Destiny, honey, thanks for posting this information. In regard to Gary Slagel, I think that I do hear the fat lady singing. Hopefully, it will be all over for this guy next week.

    Hopefully, we can load up the retirement center's van and come on down to court on Monday.

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  9. I don't know about the first two changes, but the last one - term limits - had to happen. The only problem is that Slagel and Murphy were grandfathered!

    With prison a distict possibility for Slagel, we'll have one down and one to go. Worst case scenario, we only have to deal with Murphy another 10 years....which puts him on the council for 33 years...OMG!

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  10. Yeah, throw in that corrupt city manager, Bill Keffler. He's gotta go as well. Neither he nor Slagel knows how to function without the other, and both are guilty of unethical actions. Maybe they can be cellmates?

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  11. Point of information: What the Council did by ordering the staff to word-smith up some enabling Charter amendments was a committee assignment, the likes of which the Charter mandates to be open to the public for its input. A "commission" is customarily elected by the people, thereby making its members (presumably) representatives of the people, its governing body and administration, and also independent of the abuses that have brought us to this regrettable circumstance. If those who craft up the rules are those who routinely break them, you can be assured the people will lose and be subjected to continuing exploitation.

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  12. Ride DART to the West End Station, then walk a mere three blocks to the courthouse. Round trip full fare is $4, seniors get a discount...and no charge for parking! One could park at any of the three parking-friendly Richardson stations, enjoy a leisurely ride, and easily make the gavel within a 1.5 hours transit time.

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  13. For an uplifting story about a retired Richardson man making Christmas dreams come true for young and old alike, visit...

    http://richardsonblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/11/trains-get-rolling-tomorrow-ni.html

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  14. Santa's Village opens at 6:00 PM this Saturday - come and see the tree lighting and arrival of Santa!

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  15. Ok, now this is getting a little creepy.

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  16. I think it's time that the term "The City" should no longer be used to define "City Hall" or "City Council and City Staff".

    The City of Richardson is made up of the citizens and businesses in the city limits.

    City Council is elected BY the City of Richardson voters.

    City Staff is employed BY the City of Richardson to plan and implement the things that benefit the citizens.

    "The City" is NOT the Council or Staff. They work for US.

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