News! Good News!
Do you keep a radio going while you work? I have a window office
and can pick up AM stations during the day. I usually keep my radio on KRLD,
switching back and forth to WBAP. That's why on Tuesday, I was able to
hear KRLD's City Hall reporter interviewing Yolanda Lara (Dr. Elba Garcia's
A state employee group had endorsed Laura Miller, and the reporter was
interviewing Lara who has been a vocal opponent of Mayor Miller. Lara said
her group, City of Dallas Employee Association, did not have the authority to
endorse in the mayor's race. But, she said "I am going to be
campaigning for Ms. Poss."
I could not believe my ears. It is a violation of the Dallas City
Charter for a city employee to endorse or donate to a mayoral or council candidate.
Here's a memo that was circulated by the City Attorney's Office to all city
personnel regarding politicking by city employees:
Activities of City Employees, Chapter XVI, Section 16(b) of the Dallas
City Charter contains specific restrictions on Employees' Political
Activities in City Council elections, which restrictions have been
judicially interpreted in Wachsman v. City of Dallas, 704 F. 2d 160 (5th
Cir. 1983). With the exception of sworn police and fire department
employees who must follow Section 150.002 of the Local Governmental
DATE February 21, 2003
J. Benavides, City Manager
SUBJECT City Council Election - Political Activities of City
Employees Chapter XVI, Section 16(b) of the Dallas City Charter contains
specific restrictions on employees' political activities in city council
elections, which restrictions have been judicially interpreted in
Wachsman v. City of Dallas, 704 F. 2d 160 (5th Cir. 1983).
With the exception of sworn police and fire
department employees who must follow Section 150.002 of
the Local Governmental Code, the following restrictions on political
activities in city council elections are binding on all city employees:
(1) No employee of the city or association of such employees may publicly
endorse or actively
support candidates for the city council
or any political organization or association organized to support
candidates for the city council; however, city employees
are not prohibited from privately endorsing a city council candidate
or expressing their support for city council candidates with other
individuals and with groups of 15 or fewer people. The spouse of a city
employee, and associations and organizations of spouses of city
employees, may publicly endorse and actively support city council
(2) No employee of the city may circulate petitions for city council
candidates; however, a city employee may sign a city council campaign
petition. The spouse of a city employee, and associations and
organizations of spouses of city employees, may circulate petitions for
city council candidates.
(3) No employee of the city may contribute, directly or indirectly or
through an organization or association, to such a campaign nor solicit
or receive contributions for a city council candidate. The spouse of a
city employee may contribute to the campaign of a city council candidate
and may solicit and receive contributions for a city council candidate.
(4) No employee of the city may wear city council campaign buttons nor
distribute campaign literature at work or in a city uniform or in the
offices or buildings of the City of Dallas. A city employee, while not
on duty, not in uniform and not in a city office or building, may wear
city council campaign buttons and distribute campaign literature.
(5) A city employee may place city council campaign signs in their yards
and on the premises of their homes.
(6) A city employee may place city council campaign bumper stickers on
(7) A city employee, while off duty and not in city uniform, may work in
campaign headquarters of city council candidates.
(8) An association or organization of city employees may mail or
otherwise distribute endorsements of city council candidates to the city
employee members of such organization or association.
Under Section 150.002, Local Government Code, sworn police and fire
department employees may not, while in uniform or on active duty, engage
in the following political activities relating to a campaign for
(1) making a public political speech supporting or opposing a candidate;
(2) distributing a card or other political literature relating to the
campaign of a candidate;
(3) wearing a campaign button;
(4) circulating or signing a petition for a candidate;
(5) soliciting votes for a candidate; or
(6) soliciting campaign contributions for a candidate.
While out of uniform and not on active duty, a sworn employee of the
police and fire department may engage in a political activity relating
to a campaign for elective office, including each activity listed above,
except that a sworn police and fire employee may not solicit campaign
contributions for a candidate other than from members of an employee
organization to which that employee belongs.
All city employees should be advised that under Section 12A-9 of the
Code of Ethics, the use of city facilities, personnel, equipment, or
supplies for private purposes, including political purposes, is
If you have any questions, please contact me.
Jes? Toscano, Jr., Administrative Assistant City Attorney
cc: The Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council
Madeleine B. Johnson, City Attorney
Thomas M. Taylor, City Auditor
Shirley Acy, City Secretary
Jay Robinson, Administrative Municipal Judge
Pete Oppel, Public Information Office
Apparently, Yolanda Lara has been too busy
politicking to read this very important memo. When she went on the air
Tuesday and Wednesday and stood up at her "Posse Rally",
Lara PUBLICLY ENDORSED and IS ACTIVELY SUPPORTING a candidate for the city
council. The Mayor's race is Place 15 on the City Council. What
would happen to your job if you publicly violated a written Code of
Ethics for the employees of your company? Particularly when you had been
reminded of the rules just a couple of weeks earlier?
Yolanda Lara is a civil service employee. Under civil service, city
employees are protected from coercion from elected officials, and conversely are
prohibited from publicly endorsing or financially contributing to a council
candidate. Without civil service, a council person could hit on employees
for donations and make them go out and do campaign work.
This is hugely dangerous. If this show
boat can get away with violating the City Charter, it sets a precedent and will make it impossible to enforce the rules in the future. It's all about
clean elections and clean government.
Speaking of clean elections and clean government, my favorite Democrat, State
Rep. Steve Wolens, is moving his mail vote harvesting bill forward.
ballot bill aims to cut vote cheating; But
some fear that measure would stifle minority turnout
campaign workers and voters play a role in every election in Dallas
County. And sometimes there is a less visible participant, essential to
the operations of some candidates, who visits elderly and disabled voters
and persuades them to vote by mail.
They can perform a public service, or they can commit fraud,
election experts say. Either can happen without election officials ever
knowing their identities.
. . . Rep. Steve Wolens, D-Dallas, hopes to force operatives and
vote harvesters to record their identities on ballot materials whenever
they assist a voter.
. . . Mr. Wolens told the House Elections Committee last week. "This
is going to address pushing people around who are sick, who are elderly
and who can't push back."
. . . The Elections Committee has twice heard testimony on the bill.
Committee members will decide Wednesday whether to send the bill to the
full House for consideration.
. . . In Dallas County, mail ballots have often been the focus of
election controversies. In November 2001, illegally cast mail ballots were
at the center of a Dallas City Council election voided by a state district
. . . a Dallas County grand jury indicted an operative on
allegations that she had tampered with a blind woman's mail ballot. The
voter accused Felicia Ann Pitre, who had been working for a Dallas school
board candidate, of taking her ballot before she could mark it. . .
. a judge ruled that the allegation against Ms. Pitre was not a
crime under the state election code.
The new bill would change that. It requires any person
who helps a voter to put his or her name and address on the
"carrier" envelope that holds the ballot.
. . . The proposed law would also make it illegal to mark voters' ballots
without their consent. . . . would also stop the controversial
practice of storing mail ballots ? after they have been collected from
voters ? until the last minute, when they are sent to the elections
. . . stiffer penalties . . . Class A misdemeanors are punishable by
up to a year in jail and a fine of no more than $4,000.
Rep. Terri Hodge, D-Dallas, . . . "In order for us to increase
voter participation, a few of us have ... mastered to the best of our
ability how to get our folk to the polls through the absentee [mail]
ballot process," . . .
There is just no reason for any crook or thug to collect anyone's ballot.
The County mails out return envelopes with the applications and
The problem with our election process is we have rules that no one pays any
Some people need to go to jail. What Rep. Wolens is doing has been needed
for years. Vote harvesting is just wrong. Stuffing the ballot box by
voting people who did not get to the polls is just wrong. It's time to put
the bad guys in jail or at least hit them with a big fine so that it costs them
more money than they make doing their dirty tricks.
We may need better rules and regulations, but we at least ought to enforce the
rules we already have. Don't expect our City MisManager to take a
stand. He hates the Mayor and could care less if city employees violate
our City Charter. As City Manager, Ted Benavides has taken this city right
into the tank. Granted, his predecessors put us on our slippery slope, but
Ted Benavides has no clue out turn things around.
Benavides could start with enforcing employment rules for the city
What do you think? If you think a city staffer should be able to PUBLICLY
violate the City Charter with no repercussions, do nothing and say
nothing. If you think city employees who violate the City Charter should
be terminated or penalized or put on temporary leave or at the least
reprimanded, you should contact the City Manager and your council representative
and demand some action against city employees who defy the City Charter by
publicly campaigning for and endorsing any candidate in a city council race.
Are you going to do something?