Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Now they are claiming that Houston's officials are guilty of fraud

Houston Skyline
Today on American Family Association's "news" blog, Pastor Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church, who is one of five pastors subpoenaed, claims that the city committed fraud. They also claim to have gathered more than 50,000 signatures in total. The bottom line to all this animus is that the city passed a non-discrimination ordinance that these folks don't like. Add a lesbian (the mayor) and a Jew (the city attorney) as actors in denying ballot certification and they are enraged.

According to the City Secretary Anna Russell the petitioners submitted about 600 more signatures than the 17,269 required to get a referendum on the November ballot. So we are looking at fewer that 18,000 valid signatures, not 50,000.

City Attorney David Feldman then reviewed all of the petition pages to see if those who gathered signatures met city charter requirements. Signature gatherers must be residents of Houston and they must sign each petition page that they are responsible for. Feldman disqualified more than half the 5,199 pages. In their suit, plaintiffs claim that the city secretary's original count should be the most important one and alleged Feldman had inserted himself into the process illegally. It's ridiculous. Regardless of who reviews the signatures they are either valid or invalid. In hindsight, Feldman should have instructed the city secretary to review the pages for compliance by the gatherers but that would just be cosmetic.

The argument that the petitioners are making is that it doesn't matter if signature gatherers complied with the law. Only the signature count matters. It's absurd.

According to Feldman, the subpoenas are intended to establish what rules signature gatherers were told to follow and request a wide range of communications, including any information about payments and incentives offered to people contracted to circulate the petitions and the tax information associated with those payments. Again, the city is being sued. This is all fair game. Their lawyers probably asked for too much. That's what they do knowing that discovery is a negotiation between the parties and the presiding judge.

By the way, David Feldman has been practicing law for more than 35 years.

Note: American Family Association has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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