At the end of the Big Spring City Council’s meeting on March 26, 2019, District 5 Councilmember Raul Benavides made a motion authorizing City Attorney Marianne Banks to file a declaratory judgement seeking judicial interpretation of Section 3(a) of the City Charter regarding term limits. The motion was unanimously approved.
This left several local residents with the impression that the City Council members had voted to do away with Council member term limits, but, according to Banks, this was not the case.
"They did not do away with term limits. They authorized me to file a declatatory judgement, which is just asking for the judge's opion on what the certain language in the charter is related term limits," said Banks after the City Council meeting on April 9, 2019.
Banks noted that since the amendment was written by citizens, it couldn’t be amended by the council when it was first adopted and had to be passed as presented.
After a judgement is received it will be applied to the next election cycle. Banks also noted that the City Council could choose to do a Charter Commission to make a change to the Charter if the language needs to be cleared up.
The declatory judgement will be determined by Judge Timothy Yeats, 118th District Court in Texas.
The wording in the City Charter is as follow:
Sec. 3.a. Council Member Term Limits.
No member of the council may run for election to the same council position more than two (2) consecutive times. No person may be appointed or elected to the council in a general election or in a special election as provided by Section 2 of this article within two (2) full terms of having previously held a council position. (Amendment 5-14-11)
*Note - The highlited word, "same" is what is being questioned in the declaratory judgement.
Section 2 refers to the following:
Sec. 2. Filling of vacancies.
If a vacancy occurs neither councilmen and/or councilwomen or mayor, the remaining members of the council, by a majority vote, shall appoint a qualified resident to fill such office for the remainder of the term of such vacancy. The successor must possess all qualifications required for the office. Where more than one vacancy shall develop at one time, then a special election shall be called and members of the council, elected at such special election shall fill such office for the remainder of the term for the place to which each has been elected. If such vacancies occur within ninety (90) days of a general election then no special election shall be called. (Amend. No. 1, 10-2- 73)