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Wilco Commissioner's Legal Troubles Costing Taxpayers

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Mowdy condemned the Commissioners Court behavior which clearly indicates their failure to observe basic rights given to citizens by the U.S. and Texas Constitutions.  

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Legal tab nears $90,000 in Williamson County constable lawsuit

Posted: 6:59 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014

By Esther Robards-Forbes - American-Statesman Staff

The legal bills are approaching $90,000 for the Williamson County commissioners accused of asking questions about religion, abortion and gay marriage while interviewing constable candidates last year, but in detailed court filings this week, attorneys for the county said commissioners had every right to pose those questions.

The lawsuit, filed in June 2013 in U.S. District Court in Austin, alleges that Williamson County commissioners asked inappropriate questions of candidates who were interviewing for the vacant Precinct 3 constable’s position. The Texas Civil Rights Project filed the lawsuit on behalf of constable applicant Robert Lloyd.

 

As of this week, the bill to defend the commissioners and the county has reached $89,513, including attorney services, deposition and court reporter costs and other expenses. The county has retained the private law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani in Houston.

 

“We wonder why the county has spent this much money defending a case when the solution is so simple: Stop asking questions related to church, religion, gay marriage and personal beliefs,” said Wayne Krause Yang, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project.

 

In a lengthy motion for summary judgment filed Monday, however, the attorneys from Bracewell & Giuliani argue the commissioners were within their rights to ask those questions because they were appointing a candidate to fill a seat that is normally elected.

 

“Williamson County admits that all five candidates for the constable’s position were asked their views on gay marriage and abortion by Commissioner (Lisa) Birkman,” the motion states. “The questions were posed because the person appointed constable would have to run for re-election and would certainly be asked those questions on the campaign trail in Williamson County.”

 

Mary Ellen Kersch of Georgetown was one of four residents who criticized commissioners at their meeting Tuesday for continuing to fight the case instead of reaching a settlement. Lloyd has requested monetary damages and an end to the kind of interview questions that prompted the suit.

 

“I’m steamed about the whole process,” said Kersch, who is supporting Democrat Tom Mowdy, who has made the lawsuit a signature issue in his campaign against Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison.

 

“It’s the same song, 30th verse with this court. They have no regard for legal standards, the public purse or public sensibilities. They should just settle the darn lawsuit.”

 

After Lloyd — who is a Burnet County sheriff’s deputy — filed his suit, two other candidates, Fred Churchill, police chief at Morgan’s Point Resort, and Robert Goodrich, a retired bailiff for the Williamson County sheriff’s office, joined an amended complaint in March. They said commissioners asked them the same questions.

 

The job went to Kevin Stofle, the brother-in-law of the local lawyer who advises the commissioners court.


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