The City Council members of a Texas town that made national headlines over tensions between its officials and Latino residents recently decided to drop a fight over a court ruling that paved the way for the first Hispanic to get elected.
But that, it turns out, did not put the matter to rest.
Now, a resident of Farmers Branch is suing the town over that decision – specifically, the resident is accusing the City Council of acting under the radar when it took the action to drop its challenge of the court ruling mandating single-member districts, according to Law360.com
The change from at-large district elections to single-member led to the victory of Ana Reyes in May.
Latinos had complained that the at-large system of selecting City Council members violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and a federal judge agreed.
In February, Farmers Branch filed an appeal of that decision, but then dropped it in a meeting last month.
The resident filing the suit, Mark Baker, said the council made that decision in a meeting that was properly publicized so that the public could have its say about it. He is alleging that the city officials violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.
“I’m sure there is no violation and that the proper notices were in place,” Farmers Branch City Manager Gary Greer told Law360.com
Baker strongly disagreed.
“The City Council intentionally concealed from the public the real purpose of their executive session, which was to implement a new course of action – ‘Move on’ – by dismissing the pending appeal in the single member district lawsuit,” he said in the suit, according to the website.
Latinos are nearly 50 percent of Farmers Branch, and nearly 80 percent of District 1, which elected Reyes.
Tensions between Latinos and other residents peaked when the city’s mayor called for banning undocumented immigrants from rentals.
A federal court last month blocked the Dallas suburb's rental ban law.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said multiple parts of the ordinance in Farmers Branch are unconstitutional and encroaches on the federal government's authority.
"We conclude that enforcement of the ordinance conflicts with federal law," the court said.
The appeals court relied heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year that struck down parts of Arizona's immigration law.
The suburb's ordinance would have required all renters to obtain licenses. The city's building inspector would check an immigrant's status and deny licenses to anyone in the country without permission.
Landlords who allowed immigrants without permits would have faced fines or revocations of their renters' licenses.
Reyes got involved in politics in Farmers Branch after the passage of the law making it illegal to rent to undocumented immigrants.
Reyes, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, beat Bill Capener, co-founder of a group associated with the Tea Party.