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In re Scott

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

March 29, 2017

IN RE MARK SCOTT

         On Petition for Writ of Mandamus.

          Before Justices Contreras, Benavides, and Longoria

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GINA M. BENAVIDES, Justice

         Relator Mark Scott filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the above cause on March 16, 2017. Through this original proceeding, Scott seeks to compel Rebecca L. Huerta, City Secretary of Corpus Christi, Texas to: (1) find Scott eligible to run for the position of mayor of the City of Corpus Christi, Texas; and (2) grant his application for a place on the ballot for the May 6, 2017 mayoral election. Applying a de novo review to the relevant provisions of the Corpus Christi City Charter, we conclude that principles of statutory construction establish that Scott is eligible to run for the position of mayor. Accordingly, we conditionally grant the petition for writ of mandamus.

         I. Background

         This case concerns the term limits applicable to the mayor and council members for the City of Corpus Christi. On November 2, 2010, Article II, Section 1 of the Corpus Christi City Charter (City Charter) was amended in two respects relevant to this matter. The amendments: (1) changed the election date from May to November, thereby shortening the two-year terms of office for the mayor and council members elected in May 2011 by approximately six months; and (2) increased the required break in service for the mayor and city council members from one term to three consecutive terms. The current portions of the City Charter that are at issue here provide:

(b) The mayor and members of the city council shall be elected for terms of two years and shall hold office until their respective successors have been elected and qualified. The regular election shall be held on the November uniform election date of even-numbered years as authorized by State law; provided that, a transition election shall be held on the second Saturday in May, 2011 for terms expiring upon the final canvass of the elections in November 2012.
. . . .
(d) No person shall serve more than four two-year terms consecutively as a council member, or four two-year terms consecutively as mayor, or six two-year terms consecutively in any combination of such offices. A person who has reached the limitation on terms provided in this section shall not be eligible for election or appointment to the City Council until three consecutive terms of office for the council have expired.

Corpus Christi, Tex., City Charter, art. II, § 1. Scott was elected as an at-large city council member in May 2009, May 2011, November 2012, and November 2014. Scott thus served four terms on the city council as a city council member and his total time served in that office comprised seven years and six months.

         On February 28, 2017, the City Council of Corpus Christi called for a special election to be held on May 6, 2017, to fill the vacancy in the office of the mayor after former Mayor Dan McQueen resigned from office. On March 6, 2017, Scott applied for a place on the ballot.

         On March 10, 2017, the City Council passed a resolution regarding Scott's eligibility to run in the special election. This resolution reads as follows:

Whereas, by election held on April 3, 1993, the Corpus Christi voters approved Charter Amendment 3 to amend Article II Section 1 of the City Charter to add an additional subsection (d) regarding term limitations to read as follows:
"(d) No person shall serve more than four two-year terms consecutively as a council member, or four two-year terms consecutively as mayor, or six two-year terms consecutively in any combination of such officers. A person who has reached the limitation on terms provided in this section shall be eligible for election or appointment to the city council after not serving on the city council for one full term of office. (This provision shall take effect beginning with the terms of office commencing in April 1993. Terms of office served prior to such date shall not count toward this limitation.)"
Whereas, by election held on November 2, 2010, the Corpus Christi voters approved Charter Amendment No. 2 to amend Article II Section 1 subsection (d) of the City Charter to increase the waiting period from one term (2 years) to three terms (6 years) before a person becomes eligible to serve again and modifying subsection (d) to read as follows:
"(d) No person shall serve more than four two-year terms consecutively as a council member, or four two-year terms consecutively as mayor, or six two-year terms consecutively in any combination of such offices. A person who has reached the limitation on terms provided in this section shall not be eligible for election or appointment to the city council until three consecutive terms of office for the council have expired."
Whereas, also by election held on November 2, 2010, the Corpus Christi voters approved Charter Amendment No. 6 to change the City Council election date from the second Saturday in May to the November uniform election date of even numbered years and to allow for a transition election in May 2011, with a shortened term of a year and a half, and amending Article II Section 1 (b) of the City Charter to read as follows;
"(b) The mayor and members of the city council shall be elected for terms of two years and shall hold office until their respective successors have been elected and qualified. The regular election shall be held on the November uniform election date of even-numbered years as authorized by State law; provided that, a transition election shall be held on the second Saturday in May, 2011 for terms expiring upon the final canvass of the elections in November 2012."
Whereas, Mark Scott was elected to an at-large council member position in May of 2009; May 2011; November 2012; and November 2014;
Whereas, on September 14, 2016, City Council Member Mark Scott announced his resignation from office prior to the expiration of his term of office in order to avoid City Charter term limit requirements;
Whereas, on September 14, 2016, Mark Scott submitted a written letter of resignation from office, to be effective 5 p.m. on September 14, 2016;
Whereas, Council Member Mark Scott was absent from the City Council meetings of September 20, 2016, September 27, 2016, October 11, 2016, October 18, 2016, ...

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