San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

September 5th, 2010
Suit seeks injunction against councilmembers supporting ACC measure

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A model of a proposed Austin Community College campus in San Marcos, as displayed in February at the San Marcos Public Library. File photo.

STAFF REPORT

A group opposing the effort to annex San Marcos CISD into the Austin Community College (ACC) district has filed for an injunction in district court accusing San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz and Councilmember Kim Porterfield of using city facilities to promote the measure.

In documents filed with the 274th District Court last Friday, Citizens Advocating Responsible Education (CARE SMCISD) are asking the court to prevent Narvaiz and Porterfield from using city resources to promote the ACC annexation.

Filing for CARE, San Marcos attorneys Andrew Gary and Billy McNabb said Section 255.003 of the Texas Election Code prohibits officers or employees of a political subdivision from using the resources of that subdivision to produce or distribute political advertising in connection with an election.

CARE said it seeks only injunctive relief against the respondents, Narvaiz and Porterfield, and does not seek any relief against the City of San Marcos.

Narvaiz and Porterfield could not be reached for comment.

CARE said Narvaiz and Porterfield supported the 2006 annexation effort and have continued supporting annexation in 2010.

CARE said that Narvaiz and Porterfield, in 2010, have used city email to communicate with ACC personnel. The filing said Narvaiz and Porterfield have used the San Marcos Public Library as a meeting room for the annexation effort, as a distribution point for the petition to put annexation on the November ballot, and as a location to distribute brochures and exhibit a model of the proposed ACC campus.

The filing further alleges that Narvaiz and Porterfield have used the San Marcos Activity Center to display and distribute brochures advocating annexation, used the lobby of City Hall to procure petition signatures, used city personnel (including the city manager, city attorney, assistant city attorney and clerical staff) to draft a city council resolution in support of annexation, used city council facilities to stage a presentation by ACC President Steven Kinslow and used the city hall conference room for planning meetings between ACC personnel and annexation advocates.

The annexation measure is one of several on the local ballots in the Nov. 2 election. If voters approve ACC annexation into San Marcos CISD, the community college plan to build a campus near San Marcos High School.

If San Marcos CISD is annexed into ACC, then property owners within the district would pay 9.46 cents per $100 of taxable value in property taxes. San Marcos CISD residents would receive tuition at the in-district rate of $42 per hour, instead of the out-of-district rate of $150 per hour.

The request for injunction, filed in the 274th District Court.

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17 thoughts on “Suit seeks injunction against councilmembers supporting ACC measure

  1. Interesting… did these “suit-filers” bother to READ the City Council goals for this year VOTED on and passed by ALL the council members—including mayoral candidate John Thomaides—the goals that SPECIFICALLY SUPPORT the building of an ACC campus and inclusion in the District???? Duh!! What a waste of taxpayer money by the doomsday advocates in our city whose only goal is to turn San Marcos in to a poverty slum via no progress. Wonder how surprised they will be one day to wake up and see their precious Hopkins Street/Neighborhood expensive homes costing FAR more in taxes when there is no middle class left to support them! (Remember, the poor and elderly won’t be paying the increased taxes that come to homeowners when the middle class all goes to Kyle and New Braunfels to live and raise their kids).

  2. I don’t think they are objecting to City Council members supporting the ACC proposition. I think they are objecting to the use of city facilities and employees, when those same (taxpayer paid) resources would not be available to the rest of us and some of those employees may not even be in favor of the proposition.

    The injunction simply asks for them to be required to stop using those resources. Seems reasonable.

    I suspect that John Thomaides must not be a member of either ACC San Marcos Yes, or San Marcos ACCess. I imagine they would have named any elected officials who were members.

  3. Again–Thomaides voted FOR making ACC one of the “Top 10 Goals” for the City Council THIs year (it’s on the city websi te)….so if he voted for it being one of city council top 10 goals this year, then why would he NOT be for it now? Politics? Flip-flop?? Hmmm….. Don’t you just love it when politicians try to have it both ways!!

  4. I don’t follow. The lawsuit appears to be over misuse of city resources. One would assume that the petitioners did not believe that Chris Jones, Fred Terry, Gaylord Bose, Ryan Thomason, and John Thomaides were using city resources in the same way, or they would have been named as well.

  5. I think the library use is a little weak. Anyone can reserve it for any reason (Steve Harvey and Open SM as example). I have to agree in part with Max about why only these 2? Why not just file for injunctive relief against the City and the Coucil as a whole since they did vote on it as described by Max?

    Max, speaking of flip flops and having it both ways, Thomadies did an interview with the University Star last week and actually said he supported moving the elections from May to November. That’s funny….his voting record shows that he voted AGAINST moving the elections to November twice. Maybe he forgot or just got confused. Or maybe he is courting the student vote and will tell them what he thinks they want to hear to get their vote. As he has said to more than one person, he is going to be Mayor no matter what!

  6. Be interesting to see this one play out. As I have said before, I agree with Mr. Gary’s trenchant comment published in the “newspaper of record” some weeks ago. Not only have we got the cart before the horse –again–but we are each already paying for it, in tiny and larger ways. It might also be noted that the same allegation about political use of public property and assets applies to many from “the Rising Star” who continue to do the same thing. Exact same thing goes for SMCISD and its officials. Recall, this is not just another opinion issue, but one involving a public ELECTION and the mantle of new, additional, independent (“foreign”) taxes, over which we lose control as soon as the winning results are posted.

    And that is the very large burr under Gary’s and McNabb’s saddles I would hope others have the same problem with the mis-use of public funds and public resources to promote an election involving another political entity. People can support whatever they want, however weirdly, but not people IN public office, paid BY the public, and carrying the “public interest.” and “public trust.” Tax dollars aren’t to be used for promotion of outside interests. Period.

    Lucky the Plaintiffs decided to take a gentle, rather than an Ethics or Criminal Law approach. But one can cross one’s fingers….

  7. Be interesting to see this one play out. As I have said before, I agree with Mr. Gary’s trenchant comment published in the “newspaper of record” some weeks ago. Not only have we got the cart before the horse –again–but we are each already paying for it, in tiny and larger ways. It might also be noted that the same allegation about political use of public property and assets applies to many from “the Rising Star” who continue to do the same thing. Exact same thing goes for SMCISD and its officials. Recall, this is not just another opinion issue, but one involving a public ELECTION and the mantle of new, additional, independent (“foreign”) taxes, over which we lose control as soon as the winning results are posted.

    And that is the very large burr under Gary’s and McNabb’s saddles I would hope others have the same problem with the mis-use of public funds and public resources to promote an election involving another political entity. People can support whatever they want, however weirdly, but not people IN public office, paid BY the public, and carrying the “public interest.” and “public trust.” Tax dollars aren’t to be used for promotion of outside interests. Period.

    Lucky the Plaintiffs decided to take a gentle, rather than an Ethics or Criminal Law approach. But one can cross one’s fingers….

    If the ACC issue is so valid and so critical for our future, why can’t ACC pull it off with pure truth and the carload of money they are spending to create their new empire in Central Texas? Such an issue should almost sell itself.

  8. It will be interesting to see what questions regarding ACC Annexation come up in the debates this upcoming election.

  9. Max, you would be well-served to research the tax rate trend in Kyle, particularly their projected tax rates for the next five years. At their current trajectory and based on statements during their budget sessions last year, Kyle will have the highest tax rate in the entire Austin region sometime around 2011-2012 at around $0.70/$100 (this is one of the primary issues that caused their most recent turnover on Council). I don’t remember the last City of San Marcos tax increase.

    This suit is interesting–elected officials can certainly support referendums like the ACC annexation, particularly when it is consistent with the elected body’s stated goals & objectives. How they go about doing that is where it gets complicated. Use of city staff and facilities can head into a grey area if not done properly. For example, the city clerk’s office prepares all of the resolutions for a variety of topics, and the ACC annexation resolution of support was no different. Even the use of the Activity Center for public meetings is consistent with desires to inform the public, etc. It gets more interesting when you see city facilities being used for ACC internal planning meetings. It also gets murky because it is an outside entity.

  10. Also because it is ILLEGAL for any government entity or government official to use or lend ANY public resource–money, property, time, etc. to promote a political agenda other than initiatives legally conceived and put forth by the body in question. Facilities CAN be donated in kind to community-wide events, such as Heart Walk or a community health or job fair. But I have been told the City has ceased to provide such public services, because of the heavy demand and the number of dubiously-qualified applicants. Which is true? And ACC ain’t a qualifier, given the massive and expensive media and PR campaign they are waging, and the fact they are a quasi-governmental entity calling for an election and a tax levy.

    The RESOLUTIONS from TXST, CoSM, SMCISD, etc., are fine. But at that they should shut up and let the voters decide–not walking neighborhoods passing out talking points, necessarily, but surely not doing the bidness from the dais or using Staff. Or giving public money in direct support, as has been done.

    The Kyle point is telling, and well done. CWS seems inclined to know before speaking.

  11. Whoops! Sorry. Is it true, as I read, that the President of ACC is stepping down and out, under the billowing sail of apparently having pulled off the old “‘visionary’ scam” of a lifetime, in this multi-city simultanoues marketing package.

    Or that the ACC Board seems forced to raise taxes for its UPCOMING budget? Naaahhhh. They wouldn’t. NOW?

  12. The filed suit against Narvaiz and Porterfield describes CARE-SMCISD as an “unincorporated non-profit association.” But their July 2010 filing with the Texas Ethics Commission states the organization is a “general purpose political action committee” with a specific purpose of opposing the ACC election in San Marcos. Their $900.20 in contributions were received from only 2 people, including Andrew Gary, the attorney filing the suit.

    So, I’m confused. Just what kind of organization is this? And how come they get to use the name of the San Marcos school district, “SMCISD”?

  13. The president of ACC is not “stepping down and out” .. but rather retiring after an amazing run as president. He’s done a great job. So many San Marcos students would benefit from being able to pay in-district tuition versus the tuition for out-of-district, which makes what should be an affordable education unaffordable.

  14. Now, while I may not agree with ACC and its practices I do understand why petitions were allowed at City Hall, the Public Library, and the Activity Center. If the ‘entire’ San Marcos City Council, including John T voted to support the initiative to get on the ballot or if they actually supported ACC Annexation (council members seem to switch back and forth on what they actually voted on) then the petitions would be allowed at the previous listed locations. If they had voted to support ‘being against annexation or the petition’ then Mr. Buratti you would be allowed to do that…

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