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Term limits on hold because of lawsuit

November 5, 2010

Recent efforts by the city of Big Spring — led by newly elected Mayor Tommy Duncan — to make revisions to the city charter may have hit a major snag, as conflicts caused by a lawsuit settled in 1992 could block term limits for council members and proposed changes to initiatives and referendums.

The committee, appointed by Duncan to consider and make recommendations to the Big Spring City Council regarding changes, met Thursday afternoon to discuss the matter, which could be a stumbling block for the mayor's proposed term limits, a matter he brought before the council shortly after being elected to the position.

“We realized the conflict today (Thursday). Of course, all of us were aware there was a lawsuit — it was before most of the employees' time — and that it existed,” Peggy Walker, city finance director, said Thursday. “However, today I received a recommendation from a former city council member, Tommy Tune, that we should look at having the individual reside in the district they wanted to represent on the city council. I said I would check into it, but from what I remembered, it would be in violation of the court order that came from the LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) lawsuit.

“So we got the lawsuit out and looked at the court order, and it was at that point we realized term limits themselves might be in violation of the court order, because it specifically says any individual can run for any district. It doesn't say with the exception of term limits or unless you've already served two consecutive terms.

“We immediately phoned our legal department with the Texas Municipal League, and they didn't feel like this was part of their scope. So we called the Department of Justice, but we haven't had a chance to visit with them yet, or with the court — Judge (Sam R.) Cummings (United States District Court, Northern District of Texas) or his clerk — to get an interpretation as to whether or not these changes to the charter would be a violation.”

With the impact the settled lawsuit might have on term limits or changes to the way the city handles initiatives or referendums in question, Walker said work to recommend ballot language to go before city voters is now on hold.

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