The City Council is hiring an investigator and an advising attorney to conduct an inquiry into the residency of one of its members.
To avoid the appearance of “hiding anything” from the public, the council voted late Monday to look into whether Councilwoman Wendy Burgess violated the city charter by taking up residency in nearby Rendon. The council voted 5-0 for the inquiry, with Burgess and Councilman Cory Hoffman abstaining. Hoffman cited business reasons.
Mansfield City Attorney Allen Taylor said the inquiry will cost $10,000 to $30,000.
“The council is committed to an open and transparent process to make this determination,” Mayor David Cook said after the meeting.
The issue started with the arrival of an anonymous letter at City Hall on Nov. 7. It contained documents questioning Burgess’ home address, including a deed signed March 20 by Burgess and her husband, Clint Burgess, the Tarrant County Precinct 7 constable, for property just west of Mansfield.
From the council table, Burgess defended herself during a discussion before the vote. She said that she has owned and sold multiple homes and travels a lot for her business but that she has always lived at a home in Mansfield.
She bought the Rendon property, she said, “for longhorns and horses and ducks” because of her daughter’s interest in veterinary medicine. “She wants to be a large-animal vet,” Burgess said. “That is exactly why I did it.”
The findings will be presented to the council, which will make the final ruling. Under the city charter, the council “shall be the judge of the election qualifications of its own members.”
The charter requires that the mayor and council members live within the city limits not only during their service but also at least 12 months before the date they would take office. A violation could lead to expulsion from the council.