Judge Allows Recall Effort to Move Forward
POSTED: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 5:42pm
UPDATED: Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 12:21pm
EL PASO - The process to recall Mayor John Cook and two City Reps. will continue. That's what a judge decided today, just one day after he signed a court order stopping the recall.
The judge said he didn't feel comfortable getting in the way of an election so he changed a court order that just yesterday brought the process to a halt. Now, Pastor Tom Brown and his supporters are free to drop off those signed recall petitions at city hall tomorrow.
A packed courtroom cleared out just moments after the judge made his decision to allow the recall effort of Mayor Cook and City Representatives Steve Ortega and Susie Byrd to move forward.
"John Cook lost, Judge Alvarez made a very wise decision in this case," said attorney Stuart Leeds.
Leeds and Teresa Caballero spent Wednesday morning fighting a temporary restraining order against their client, Pastor Tom Brown. The restraining order was filed by Mayor Cook. It brought the recall process to a halt Tuesday because part of it banned Brown from submitting his recall petitions to the city clerk.
But after a 2 hour hearing, the judge threw that part out, saying he didn't think it was right for a court to interfere with the recall election process.
"It was easy. It was easy to get the temporary restraining order modified because they were wrong," said Leeds.
Mayor Cook and his lawyers claim Pastor Brown and his supporters have been illegally gathering signatures in places like churches, something that violates the Texas Election Code. That's why they filed the temporary restraining order.
"He's trying to interfere with the democratic process again just like he did when he broke the tie to overturn the people's vote," said Leeds.
But Mayor Cook says it's not about stopping an election, it's about making sure it's fair.
"I respect the will of the people. A recall is something that requires the will of the people. But I don't want people to illegally follow the process or have irregularities or any fraud involved in the election process, because the election process is very sacred," said Cook during an interview with NewsChannel 9 Tuesday evening.
Pastor Brown wants Cook, Byrd and Ortega kicked out of office because they voted to restore health benefits to gay and domestic partners of city employees, after voters took the benefits away.
Pastor Brown needs about 6,100 signatures to hold a recall election for Mayor Cook, and another 650 signatures each for Byrd and Ortega. Brown's lawyers say they have more than enough. They plan to had the signatures to the city clerk at 2:00 p.m. Thursday.
NewsChannel 9 will have complete coverage.