Court says Tarrant water district doesn’t have to call election

04/23/2014 5:53 PM

04/23/2014 5:55 PM

In the latest round of legal wrangling involving the Tarrant Regional Water District, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the raw water provider isn’t required to hold a board election this year.

A lawsuit filed by the Rev. Kyev Tatum, his brother, Archie, and their wives, Tonya and Hershey Ann, had argued that the water district violated the Texas and U.S. constitutions by moving the election from May 2014 to May 2015.

But the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals sided with a federal district judge’s earlier ruling by saying the district doesn’t have to call an election.

“We agree with the district court that no election is authorized under Texas law until May of 2015, and the United States Constitution does not require an election this year,” the 5th Circuit wrote. “We therefore affirm on that basis.”

The Tatum suit had also argued that the seats occupied by board members Jim Lane and Marty Leonard expire in May, requiring the board to take some sort of action to fill them. The 5th Circuit declined to weigh in on that issue.

“We take no position on the question of what will happen when the two directors’ four-year elected terms end in May of 2014,” the court wrote. “That question is not yet ripe. When their terms end, Texas state law will control the question of how the director positions will be filled and any related issues.”

In a statement, the water district said it is pleased with the ruling.

“It confirms what we have said all along that we were acting in accordance with the law,” the statement said.

Tatum’s attorneys couldn’t be reached for comment.

The legal challenges for the water district election were also taking place in state court this year.

In March, the Texas Supreme Court denied a writ filed by John Basham, Darla Lee Hobbs and Texans for Government Transparency. The suit contended that the water district violated the Texas Constitution when it pushed back its election to May 2015.

In February, state District Judge David Evans denied a request for a temporary injunction, a decision appealed to the Texas 2nd Court of Appeals. Basham’s lawyers filed notice with the court April 7 that they were dropping the appeal.

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