Bertram sues to block recall election
By LPR Staff
As voters across Caldwell County headed toward the polls on Tuesday, one elected official headed to court.
After City Secretary Connie Ortiz confirmed last week that the petition to recall Lockhart Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram was valid, Bertram pledged to fight the petition through the court system.
Bertram made good on his pledge, filing a petition in District Court seeking a judge’s ruling on the validity of the petition. The suit, entitled “Jimmy Bertram, Petitioner vs. City of Lockhart, Texas; City Council of the City of Lockhart, Texas; David Studer, William R. Long and W. Frank Coggins, Recall Petitioners.”
Bertram said that the City of Lockhart and the Lockhart City Council were named in the suit only because he requested a court order preventing the council from setting a recall election until the case can be litigated.
“I have asked for attorney’s fees from the recall petitioners,” he said on Tuesday afternoon. “But I won’t take a penny from the city.”
In the suit filed on Bertram’s behalf, San Marcos attorney Lamar Hankins alleges that the recall petition should be held invalid because the “justifications for ‘incompetency’ relate… to legislative and/or political decisions made by the Mayor.”
The lawsuit claims that the charges leveled against Bertram in the recall petition have “nothing whatever to do with ‘inability or unfitness to properly discharge the official duties of the office…’”
Lockhart’s home rule charter demands that a petition to recall an elected official must distinctly and specifically point out the ground or grounds upon which the petition for recall is based. According to Hankins’ filing, the recall petition failed to meet that requirement.
Bertram made arrangements to have Studer, Long and Coggins served upon their arrival at the Lockhart City Council meeting on Tuesday evening. In addition, the City of Lockhart was served, via Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada. Along with the originally filed lawsuit, each party was served a Temporary Restraining Order.
The Temporary Restraining Order, signed by Judge Charles Ramsey on Tuesday afternoon, orders the council not to move forward in setting a recall election, an action required by the city charter. Ramsey also ordered a hearing on March 16, 2006 at 9 a.m. to address a number of issues, including whether or not the restraining order should be extended.
Bertram’s decision to file suit inspired outrage in some Lockhart citizens during Tuesday’s council meeting.
“When citizens act under the terms of a democracy, that is freedom,” said Sandra Thornell. “I am appalled that the three people that submitted the petition for the recall were sued by Mayor Bertram… You’re suing your citizens. Shame on you, Mayor Bertram.”
Studer said on Wednesday morning that he, Coggins and Long intended to meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss hiring an attorney and determine the best course of action in responding to Bertram’s lawsuit.