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Suit may not nix term limits

November 18, 2010

Big Spring City Attorney Linda Sjogren says the civil action lawsuit from the early 1980s that brought recent efforts to make revisions to the city's charter to a screeching halt may not be an enormous obstacle, after all.

Sjogren told members of the city council during a recent meeting her research into the matter looks promising for the city's efforts — led by newly elected Mayor Tommy Duncan — to put several charter revisions before Big Spring voters in May.

“After looking at the lawsuit and order, I was concerned that we might need to get an agreement with LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) or take it to the court,” Sjogren said. “It was apparent we were going to need to do some research on how that court order would affect the charter revisions, including term limits and initiatives and referendums.

“I had my legal assistant contact the district court in Abilene and try to get a complete list of all motions and orders that are in there. I have a partial file that had been left by previous city attorneys, but there were some other files that could not be located. We wanted to be sure that we have everything, because as she got the dockets, we found out there have been at least six amendments to the order. There was one in 1986, two in 1992, two in 1993, and there has been some sort of informal rhetoric that occurred in 1996. So there have been quite a few changes to the court order.”

The lawsuit, which was originally filed against Big Spring Independent School District, the city of Big Spring and the Howard College board of directors by LULAC Chapter No. 4375, claimed the at-large system used to elect council members at that time had “the effect of diluting the voting strength of the Mexican American community in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

An agreement was reached between the parties in 1983, with a review of the document and its impact on the community to be reviewed in five years. However, it wasn't until 1992 that a final agreement was reached, changing the city council to a district representative system with no at-large seats.

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