A federal judge’s ruling on Thursday didn’t compel the Tarrant Regional Water District to call an election in May but his order may require the water board to appoint members for the seats of Marty Leonard and Jim Lane.
A lawsuit filed by Rev. Kyev Tatum, his brother, Archie and their wives Tonya and Hershey Ann, had contended the water district violated the Texas and U.S. constitutions by moving the election to May 2015.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor denied a motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the suit. O’Connor also said that Leonard and Lane could “continue to serve after the expiration of their terms until their successor is qualified.”
But O’Connor’s ruling appears to suggest, citing Section 49.105 of the state Water Code, that they can’t serve indefinitely.
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“This, however does not mean the TRWD can ignore Section 49.105,” O’Connor wrote. “Rather, when a vacancy arises the board shall appoint a replacement.”
Vic Henderson, chair of the Tarrant Regional board, said it was too early to determine if the judge’s order requires the board to act.
“Our attorneys will review the law and will advise should any board action be necessary,” Henderson said.
Craig Bickley and Melissa McDougal, who had both declared themselves as water board candidates earlier this year if a May election was called, said Friday in a press release that they were pleased “that the Court agrees that the terms of Lane and Leonard expire this May.”
In that same press release, Tatum’s attorney, Christopher Kratovil. said the Fort Worth pastor intends to appeal O’Connor’s ruling.
“We will be appealing the ruling to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit,” Kratovil said. “And we’re going to be asking the Fifth Circuit to review the legality of withholding election from the citizens of Tarrant County.”
Also on Thursday, a petition to the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth that asking them to compel the water district to call an election was denied. The petition for writ of injunction and emergency relief was filed earlier this month by John Basham, Darla Hobbs and Texans for Government Transparency
The deadline to call an election for May 10 was Friday.
Basham, who has run three times for the water board, has also filed a separate lawsuit in state court that was similar to Tatum’s legal action. Both lawsuits argued that water district violated the Texas Constitution by not holding board elections in 2014. In the Basham suit, state District Judge David Evans refused earlier this month to order the district to hold an election. That case was also appealed to the 2nd Court of Appeals.