By Anthony Scott
Killeen Daily Herald
Residents will have a chance to vote to recall five Killeen city council members Nov. 8 - if the date stands up to numerous legal challenges.
Council members approved a recall election for Nov. 8 in a 3-2 vote Tuesday night amid varying opinions on the legality of the election because of possible city charter violations.
Councilmen Juan Rivera and Larry Cole voted against holding the election in November, while Councilmen Billy Workman, Terry Clark and Mayor Pro Tem Scott Cosper voted for it. Councilman Kenny Wells abstained.
"I believe calling this election would be in violation of that charter," Wells said.
After the meeting, Wells said he didn't vote because he thought the petition process violated the city charter, though he said he doesn't object to holding an election.
"I didn't vote for it because I believe it's in violation of the charter," he said.
Wells brought his attorney, former Councilman Dan Corbin, to the meeting to give the council legal counsel.
Corbin said there were numerous legal questions surrounding the recall effort, including that the city charter requires five people to supervise a petition. The current recall movement was overseen by one person - resident Jonathan Okray.
Corbin further said that the recall petition wasn't completely supervised by Okray, who would be required to verify the signature and read the petition to each signer.
"The lawyer in me really wants to give a point-by-point rebuttal of Mr. Corbin, but I will not do that because if you don't call the election, I don't want to be on record as saying something that might be harmful to my client's case," said City Attorney Kathy Davis before the vote. "I don't think that's in the best interest of my client, but I think there are some things where reasonable legal minds can differ because we do."
Okray's attorney, Chad Dunn, said his client is reviewing the council's decision and will decide whether or not to move forward with litigation soon.
"The citizens of this community worked hard to schedule this recall election," Dunn said. "It's unfortunate that City Council has chosen to ignore the career requirements of the city's charter and schedule this election much sooner."
Okray was more direct.
"I believe we'll be going to court," Okray said. "If they didn't approve anything by the charter and ask the judge, then we're going to have to go ask the judge."
Okray said the council has charter violations of its own to worry about, as he continues to insist that a Nov. 8 election is not in line with the charter, which specifically states that a recall election must be held between 30 and 60 days after the city certifies a recall petition.
The city certified the recall petitions on May 24.
Davis has continued to disagree with Okray on his interpretation of the law, citing Texas election laws that trump the city charter and require recall elections to be held during a uniform election date; the next being Nov. 8.
As it stands, the recall election will be for Cole, Rivera, Wells, Workman and Cosper. Former Councilman Ernest Wilkerson is no longer be subject to recall after his resignation was approved during Tuesday's meeting. He said last week that he was stepping down for family reasons.
Clark replaced former Councilwoman JoAnn Purser after defeating her May 14, eliminating the need for a vote to recall her as well. Okray started the petition drive in April in response to the $750,000 buyout of former City Manager Connie Green, which was about $200,000 more than his contract stipulated.
The council is currently working on locating candidates to fill the District 4 vacancy left by Wilkerson. According to the city charter, the council must approve his replacement by majority vote and that person must live in District 4.
Contact Anthony Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.