POSTED: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 4:09pm
UPDATED: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 5:16pm
Austin — State Representative Joe Moody (D-District 78, El Paso) has passed legislation aimed directly at helping the citizens of the Village of Vinton hold their local elected officials accountable. House Bills 3015 and 2259 were passed out of the Texas Senate Thursday after sponsorship by State Senator José Rodriguez (D-District 29, El Paso). They now await the governor's signature.
Vinton has been embroiled in significant controversy recently, with outraged citizens saying that a bloc of councilmembers have been actively working to undermine efforts towards improving the village.
"As a result of the irresponsible actions of some council members, the Village of Vinton was unable to pass a budget for this fiscal year-a historic first in Texas," said state Sen. José Rodríguez. "Meanwhile, on their watch, the village can no longer collect taxes and has missed out on millions of desperately-needed grant dollars for items like wastewater infrastructure. These bills help the responsible council members and the public hold them accountable."
Residents critical of the embattled councilmembers have pointed to a variety of tactics they identify as obstructionist. For example, records show that these councilmembers have regularly attended city council meetings only to leave once a quorum is called, preventing any city business from being done. Normally, failing to attend three consecutive meetings would result in automatic loss of office under the law. However, appearing and then leaving is not covered by current statutes.
The only recourse for voters so far has been to file a lawsuit-a slow, expensive process which is still pending in this case-because Texas law does not allow for a city the size of Vinton to hold a recall election.
House Bill 2259 closes the attendance loophole by making elected members of government "absent" if they are not present at the end of an official meeting in which there was a quorum. House Bill 3015 provides an additional form of accountability by giving the voters of Vinton the power to hold a recall election to remove officials they believe are not living up to the high standards of public office.
"Vinton is full of good, honest, hardworking people-and a few bad apples at the top who are doing terrible damage to the village," Moody said when asked about his legislation. "Elected officials should always be accountable to the people who put them in office, which is why giving the citizens of Vinton the tools they needed to restore good government was a priority for me this session."