Fort Worth

Arlington term limits lawsuit: ‘Sham litigation’ or legitimate beef?

Arlington resident claims victory in standoff over term limits

Zack Maxwell, who led the petition drive in Arlington for strong, retroactive term limits for council members, said the city's alternate proposition "was done to deliberately create confusion."
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Zack Maxwell, who led the petition drive in Arlington for strong, retroactive term limits for council members, said the city's alternate proposition "was done to deliberately create confusion."

A state district judge heard arguments Tuesday that the Arlington City Council term limits proposition, which was voters overwhelmingly approved in November could have unintended consequences on two incumbent City Council members.

The lawsuit, filed by Arlington resident Robert Johnson, seeks to toss out the term election results, arguing that those who signed were misled into believing that the incumbents would be allowed to serve the remainder of their terms.

“In this case everyone was assured that if they supported term limits all incumbents would get to fill out the remainder of their terms — if you read what was passed it says just the opposite,” said Brenham attorney Andy Taylor, who is representing Johnson.

Lawyers for the City of Arlington and for two organizers of the successful petition drive, Zack Maxwell and Faith Bussey, said that was not the intent of the charter amendment. The lawyer said that the two council members, Robert Shepard and Sheri Capehart, will be able to serve the remainder of their terms, which expire in May 2020.

Neither Shepard nor Capehart have raised any concerns that their council seats are in jeopardy, said Maxwell’s attorney Warren Norred, who called the lawsuit “sham litigation.”

Norred also said that the city is not taking candidate applications for District 2 or District 6, which are the seats held by Capehart and Shepard.

After the hearing, Maxwell argued that Johnson is trying to use lawsuit as a way to throw out the entire term limits election. During the campaign, Maxwell said term limits opponents warned there would be a lawsuit if the proposition passed.

“Here we are, “ Maxwell said. “We have this case. It’s wasting everybody’s time.”

The lawyers agreed to a summary judgment and that visiting judge John Neill of Johnson County will make a ruling on the merits on the case by Feb. 11. The filing deadline is Feb. 15 for the May 4 election.

“If it happens on the 11th that will give us four days to notify all candidates as to which positions on City Council are up for election,” Taylor said.

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Bill Hanna is an award-winning reporter who has covered just about every beat at the Star-Telegram. He currently covers Arlington but also writes about a variety of subjects including weather, wildlife, traffic and health.
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