Our new city is under attack by the Texas Attorney General at the request of an individual or entity his office refuses to identify. Please help us fight this baseless lawsuit! Your tax-deductible contribution, no matter how big or small, will support our effort to save the City of Double Horn and send a clear message to the Capitol that after following all applicable county and state laws to become a city, we have no intention of folding under the State’s attempt to deny that right.
The Full Story
The purposes for Double Horn’s incorporation were many, and virtually the same as that of every other city in the state, being to protect its citizens and to maintain their community vision, health, safety, welfare, and property values. Certainly those purposes include exerting a level of restraint over a recently approved New York based rock crushing and quarry operation located adjacent to home sites in the City, and from future rock processing operators or other businesses which might wish to develop the area in a manner that is not desired by local residents.
On March 14, 2019, the State of Texas delivered a lawsuit to the City of Double Horn and its recently elected governing body challenging the validity of the City’s incorporation, which occurred in December 2018, as well as the lawful right of the Mayor, five Aldermen, and City Marshall to remain in office. The State seeks a judgment declaring the incorporation to be invalid, for the City to be dissolved, and for the seven individuals named in the suit to be removed from office. In a further insult, if the city loses, the lawsuit states that these law-abiding individuals would be responsible for all costs associated with the lawsuit.
On April 3, 2019, 424th District Judge Evan Stubbs ruled for the City in a hearing in Burnet, Texas to review the State’s motion for summary judgment, stating that the City’s response appears to show that Double Horn was properly incorporated and that the State’s lawsuit constitutes an abuse of its office. He questioned why many other cities in similar situations have incorporated without interference from the Attorney General’s office:
“Why does the Attorney General care? Because the AG didn’t seem to care when [the city of] Meadowlakes incorporated. The AG didn’t seem to care when a bunch of these other towns incorporated. So why does the AG seem to care here?”
Judge Stubbs then speculated on two possible origins of the lawsuit:
“Either a group of these people that have voted against incorporation have been pounding on your door to get you to file this, which is one option, or, the second is that this multimillion-dollar company out of New York [the rock crusher and quarry owner] has been pounding on your door to get you to file this. And I really hope it’s the first because if it’s the latter, it really seems like you’re using taxpayer dollars to seek a monetary benefit for some New York corporation at the expense of all these people in this room, and, realistically, you’re using my tax dollars for that.”
He concluded by saying that the AG’s office did not have a probability of winning the lawsuit. He denied the State’s motion and suggested that if the AG’s office wanted to continue to waste taxpayers dollars it could appeal his decision through the Third Court of Appeals.
On May 3, 2019, the State Attorney General’s Office filed a notice of appeal arguing that Judge Stubbs should not have dismissed the lawsuit. The court document included a request for an accelerated order for review by the Third Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas.
The Need for Legal Defense Funding
While pursuing incorporation, Double Horn residents relied on guidance from several Burnet County personnel, including attorneys, election officials, the Commissioners Court and its head, Judge Oakley, to ensure compliance with county law. These officials in turn relied on direction from the Texas Secretary of State to ensure conformance with state law.
Residents also engaged a municipal attorney (now the City Attorney) from the beginning of the incorporation effort in September 2018 to ensure strict compliance with applicable articles of the Texas Local Government Code. Upon receipt of the lawsuit, the City hired a second attorney to help develop its response. These two attorneys have in combination close to 60 years of experience in Texas municipal law and are considered highly accomplished experts in the field. The second attorney told Judge Stubbs in the April 3rd hearing that in his more than 30 years’ experience representing municipalities he’s never seen a case like this.
The City clearly left no stone unturned in learning about and complying with applicable county and state laws in its pursuit of incorporation and therefore believes the lawsuit to be baseless. Unfortunately, being on the right side of the law has not protected the City from being targeted by the Attorney General’s office.
As a small, newly incorporated city, virtually the only funds the City has to address this lawsuit are the private amounts donated by the residents of Double Horn and their supporters. The City’s initial 2019 fiscal year budget was developed prior to the lawsuit and included a line item for ongoing legal consultation from the City Attorney plus a small placeholder amount for litigation. To date, legal fees setting up the city and defending against the lawsuit total approximately $16,000 and it is estimated that an additional $16,000 will be required to prepare for the appeal hearing.
The City will not receive its first tax revenue until the first quarter of 2020, so all City expenses until then will have to be funded through other means.
We need your help to continue our fight against this baseless, abusive lawsuit. Please consider that if the Attorney General is successful in this suit, no city charter or ordinance will be safe if an individual or company can convince the Attorney General to file lawsuits on their behalf.
Thank you in advance for your generous donation!
For more information, see links below to articles in the Austin-American Statesman and Daily Tribune and the City of Double Horn website.