GALENA PARK – The city learned on Monday that the judge of the 270th Judicial Court, Judge Brent Gamble, had granted a Summary Judgment in favor of the plaintiff, Barry Ponder, and ordered his proposed four amendments to be on the ballot at the next election.
The original lawsuit was filed by Ponder in January 2015, seeking to force the city to place four Charter Amendments on the ballot in the May 2015 election.
Ponder had secured over 614 signatures of registered voters, to place the amendments on the ballot. City Secretary Mayra Gonzales had certified that at least 492 of the signatures were valid, and wrote to Ponder, in care of the Citizens for a Better Galena Park, on Oct. 1, 2014.
In spite of that certification, and the petitions that were signed, the City Council decided to propose their own 18 amendments for voters to consider, instead of Ponder’s original four. They set up a Charter Commission to draft these amendments, which they subsequently adopted.
Ponder then filed suit against the mayor, the council, the city manager, the city secretary, the city attorney, and the city in general. This lawsuit and countersuits by the city dragged on, and the 18 amendments appeared on the November ballot, and were all defeated.
Ponder’s suit claimed that the city and council had “arbitrarily rejected the election petition.”
It also claimed that Councilman Simms had illegally benefitted from health insurance amounting to $167,475, and that city manager Robert Pruett had exhibited racism in his official capacity. These claims were disputed in a countersuit. EDITORS NOTE: These claims were subsequently removed in an amended filing by Ponder’s attorney.
Ponder’s amendments, which were not on the ballot, called for the following:
#1. City departments would be administered through the Mayor.
#2. The Mayor’s signature would be required for hiring and firing in the fire department, the fire marshal, and the police chief.
#3. Voters could initiate a referendum or recall, on ordinances.
#4. Other measures would strengthen the Mayor’s authority.
The Galena Park City Commission (Council) has called two special meetings to deal with this court order for Summary Judgment. The first meeting, in Executive Session (non-public) will be Thursday, August 20 at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall. The second meeting, open to the public, is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. at City Hall. to announce legal action, or call for the election.