Temple Citizen Petitions to Recall City Council
A concerned citizen is petitioning to recall the Temple City Council for allegedly violating the city's charter.
Mari Paul presented a letter to the City of Temple on Monday, March 3, calling for the recall of Mayor pro tem Judy Morales along with Mayor Danny Dunn and Council members Tim Davis, Perry Cloud and Russell Schneider. Paul alleges that Morales violated Section 4.9 of Temple’s City Charter which prohibits public officials from receiving taxpayer funds as compensation for holding office. Dunn et al. are accused of helping Morales to bypass Charter rules.
Paul took her petitions to Miller Park on North 1st Street Saturday morning to gather signatures and inform the public. She explains why she feels the need to recall the Council, Morales in particular: “In 2011, she ran an illegal campaign,” she says. “You cannot be paid by taxpayer funds and run for City Council. It states [that] in the charter... very clearly. When she did run, it was up to the City Council members, per the charter, to check her eligibility.”
Paul’s assertion stems from the fact that Morales was employed as the director of the Temple HELP Center of Bell County when she ran for the office of Council Member District 2 in 2011, constituting a conflict of interest and violating the City Charter. The Council was reportedly unaware of the violation until the fall of 2013. Shortly after Morales retired from the HELP Center that October, plans were announced for her to begin work as a consultant for the agency in December with limited work hours but a salary comparable to that which she earned while working there full-time. Paul believes Council members were aware of the plan and, rather than asking Morales to forfeit her position, aided her in bypassing the issue.
“When they found out,” Paul says, “they rectified the problem by saying ‘Hey, resign the position from the county. That’ll fix it. And let’s circumvent the Charter. We’re going to continue to allow you get paid $40 an hour, but the taxpayers, instead of paying you directly, are now going to be paying your consultation company.'”
It’s not about her legal woes. If she has to answer for those, she’ll answer for those at a later point.
In a statement posted to the City of Temple's website on March 5, Mayor Dunn said the city has not taken action regarding Morales because officials are waiting for the results of a Bell County Sheriff's Department investigation involving her.
“At the present time,” the statement reads, “the final report has not been released and... my belief is still that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and I will not serve as a judge and jury of a fellow councilmember." Dunn continues, "I have asked Ms. Morales to resign from her office no fewer than four times, if she believes she is guilty of the allegations against her. ...She responded that she would resign if charges are brought against her."
Morales is additionally under investigation for allegedly attempting to destroy emails requested through the Texas Open Records Act and making illegal use of county resources to campaign for office.
Paul, who worked under Morales at the HELP Center, is a key witness in these cases and discloses in her petition that she aided Morales in creating campaign materials during office hours and was later asked to delete emails and documents linking her superior to these activities. That request, she says, prompted her to contact human resources about these alleged abuses. However, she maintains that her petition has to do with Morales’ alleged activities as a Council member and not the County’s case.
“It’s not about her legal woes,” Paul says. “If she has to answer for those, she’ll answer for those at a later point.”
Paul's letter of intent also accuses Councilman Schneider of violating Section 4.9 of the City Charter by securing city contracts through his R.T. Schneider Construction Company for financial gain.
I take great offense when I am being accused publicly of violating the City Charter. I have always made every effort possible to follow the guides of our City charter which currently have no provisions disallowing elected public officials from conducting business with the City of Temple. If the citizens of Temple disagree with the Charter and the elected officials that uphold the Charter, I would recommend they seek the necessary procedures required to change the City’s charter rather than publicly attack those of us that follow its guidelines as presently written.
I sincerely encourage the citizens to undergo their diligence and read the City charter as it relates to these issues. It is imperative that everyone understands what they are signing and ask questions regarding the Council’s actions and make their own individual decision as to the facts in these situations.
Paul made her petitions for each district available at Temple's Lions Park and will spend this week visiting various shopping centers to gather signatures. According to the City Charter, she must obtain the signatures of at least 30 percent of Temple’s registered voters to recall the mayor and 30 percent of voters in each district to recall individual Council members. That comes to over 11,000 signatures for the mayoral recall, but it is unclear how many she’ll need from each district. According to a recent article in the Temple Daily Telegram, the city is waiting on numbers from the Bell County elections department, which did not have a system in place to break those numbers down to single-member districts until one year ago.