Pantego council candidate ruled ineligible to serve

Though he lost last month’s election, Place 5 incumbent Don Surratt will serve another year on the Pantego Town Council.

Bill Holland, who defeated Surratt by 12 votes on May 11, was unable to take office after discovering during the election that he was not registered to vote, which is a town requirement for candidates seeking public office, officials said.

Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn said Holland’s voter registration had been canceled in November 2012 because of an incorrect address.

“He moved and didn’t notify our office. We mailed a confirmation to him at his Pantego address, but he didn’t respond,” Raborn said. “He wasn’t registered to vote at the time of the election.”

Holland’s voter registration was reinstated May 21, after the election, but it was too late.

On Monday, the council voted 2-1 to appoint Surratt, who has served as the Place 5 representative since 2009, until next May’s election.

Pantego Mayor Melody Paradise said this is the first time the council has had to appoint a representative because of a technicality in a contested race.

Neither Holland or Surratt could be reached for comment Tuesday. The town has posted a notice on its webpage about the appointment.

When the Town Council was made aware of the situation, Paradise said it was told that it had the option of holding a special election in November or it could appoint Holland, Surratt or another eligible citizen for a one-year term. Holland serves on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Citizen input gathered before Monday night’s council vote was split on which candidate should be chosen, Paradise said.

After meeting in executive session, council members Don Funderlic and Russell Brewster voted to appoint Surratt and council member Charlie Price voted to appoint Holland. Council member Jane Barrett was absent, Surratt abstained and Paradise did not vote because there was a not a tie.

During public comments, Paradise said Funderlic and Brewster said they chose to appoint Surratt because his experience would be helpful during upcoming budget discussions.

“They thought at this time we are going to maintain the status quo and in May the voters can come out and express their opinions,” Paradise said.

Price said he doesn’t believe the council supported “the will of the people” by choosing Surratt.

“I do not think democracy was followed. He was defeated,” Price said. “Through a technicality, he gets to continue on another year.”

Paradise said the process was “handled very thoroughly and very thoughtfully” and that she hopes the appointment will not discourage Holland from running for office again.