Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lawsuit Against County Chair Causes Concern for Primary

The saga of the Democratic Chair in San Antonio continues. Now the problem is case of the law of unintended consequence. Last fall 30 Democratic Precinct Chairs, including Carla Vela and Dan Ramos who are running for the Chair position, won a temporary restraining order that put them in control of the party.

Now there is a slight problem. Because the plaintiffs are now in control of the party, Rudy Casias is not allowed to spend party money nor is he allowed to act unilaterally on any party action.

According to the San Antonio Express-News this deal was signed by Senior District Judge Pat Priest and it requires Casias to disband the committee he had formed to oversee preparations for the March 7 primary and accept a panel selected by the executive committee. It also requires Casias to submit a list of election-judge candidates to the committee for approval, as well as a proposal for their compensation. In addition, the chairman must hand over a proposal for voting machines for the committee's OK.

County Judge Nelson Wolff sees a problem here:

Bottom line, from an operational standpoint: It's impossible to change the voting machines and we've already hired the people to be election judges," Wolff said. "So if indeed the judge interprets this to mean they can do these things, I would say the election is in trouble.

Ruperto Garcia, a plaintiff in the case has said that they are not looking to stop the deal Casias worked out and do not wish to interfere with the upcoming March 7th Primary election.

The San Antonio Express-News out lines the deal Casias made:

Casias, his Republican counterpart and county officials signed an agreement in December to hold a joint primary, run by the county's election department. Casias' critics said he didn't have the authority to agree unilaterally to the pact, but Garcia said the plaintiffs aren't looking to back out of the agreement.

The plaintiffs sued Casias in September, claiming he'd violated state election laws and excluded them from important decisions. A judge signed a temporary restraining order at that time stopping Casias from spending money other than daily operational funds and calling on him to complete an audit of the party's finances within 30 days.

The audit has not yet been done because Casias will not hand over the financial statements to the appointed treasurer.

All in all, the primary looks to be on for March 7th, but the question is whether it is because of Wolff’s intervention or the plaintiff’s signing off on the deal that Casias has made.


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