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April 9, 2014

Council cancels meeting, faces election deadline

CUNEY — A last-minute cancelation of Tuesday's city council meeting in Cuney, due to a lack of quorum, doesn't appear to be anything new, according to the past history of the council.

On the agenda for Tuesday, the council was to have addressed the cancelation of a May 10 municipal election to elect City Council Places 2, 4 and 6 due to unopposed status of candidate, as well as discuss repair of County Roads 3501 and 3526 inside city limits, according to the agenda.

However, the meeting was canceled when Alderman Dianne Rose Reed contacted city hall to say she was out of town, according to City Secretary Brenda Langford.

It has been at least several months since the council last met formally, said Alderman Grace Beal, who showed up for Tuesday's meeting at Cuney City Hall.

“It was probably October or November. The mayor (Oscar Birdow) would schedule meetings, then cancel them, but didn't indicate why, or who didn't show,” she said. “It's very disappointing because the city can't operate when we can't get a quorum.”

Mayor Pro Tem Charles Cross disagreed. “I wouldn't say that (lack of meetings) would (impact the council's effectiveness). Some members might feel that, but I don't.”

Cross said he believes “the last time we met was last month, on the second Tuesday of the month,” when the council “might have addressed improving roads, but I'm not positive. I'm not really familiar with that.”

He also said he was “not familiar” with when the next council meeting is planned nor whether there is a deadline to cancel the upcoming election.

Spokeswoman Alicia Pierce of the Texas Secretary of State's Office said “legally, there's no formal deadline to cancel an election, but for practical purposes, it should be done before early voting begins and mail-out ballots go out.”

Beal, who filed an application for Place 6 on the council – the seat that doubles as the mayor's position – has raised concerns that the May election will be canceled before her concerns are addressed about hers and another applicant's forms not being considered. Beal said her application was submitted by a state-mandated 5 p.m. deadline on Feb. 28. However, the city offices were closed when she dropped it off.

She said initially, she was denied an application by Lankford on Feb. 28, who “said that the deadline had expired; when I asked when, she said 12 o'clock that day,” Beal recalled. “She suggested that I get it from the computer after she wouldn't give me one, even though I kept asking for one.”

Beal said she downloaded an application and had it notarized in Jacksonville before returning to Cuney City Hall, which was closed.

The cover sheet of Beal's application form notes “On 2/28/14 at 1:45 p.m. Secretary refused to give out an application” – it also bears a stamp notating the form had been received at 8:10 a.m. March 4, 2014, although there is no indication of who received the application.

While the State Election Law Manual states a “City Secretary's office should stay open until 5 p.m.” on closing day of the early voting period, it is more of a guideline for cities, Pierce said.

However, she added, “it's strongly recommended to keep city halls open until 5 p.m., because if there is a legal challenge, (what is printed in the law manual) will stand.”

Beal – who filed a written request with city hall for a council meeting “to discuss and take action on the General Election by March 25” – said she is concerned on two levels.

“My concern is that city hall was shut down before 5 p.m.; my other concern is that it should have been put on the ballot, but (a notification posted at city hall) just has (Cross's) name, saying he was unopposed,” she said.

On Tuesday, Cross said he was the sole candidate for Place 6, “no one else applied.”

The council meeting has been rescheduled for April 22 at Mayor Birdow's request, the city secretary said.

Birdow could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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