Athens Review, Athens, Texas

November 21, 2012

Turmoil in city government

Questions arise in Coffee City, even after landslide election

Kathi Nailling
The Athens Review

Athens — COFFEE CITY –  During the Nov. 6 general election, the watchdog group Concerned Citizens of Coffee City's slate of candidates won in a landslide election for mayor and three council positions. Current Mayor Tony Moore did not run for re-election.

Ray Wakeman, a retired banker, won the mayor's seat with 205 votes to Steve Gullekson's 122. The only alderman running for re-election, Lee Farris, lost to Donald Gary Weaver, 196 to 114. Newly-elected council members Ruthie Seward and Phil Rutledge also won their seats with the backing of the Concerned Citizens group.

The group was formed in 2009 to  oppose a property tax that was being discussed. The two aldermen, who were not up for re-election, were backed last year by the Concerned Citizens political group. The group now controls all the seats on the council. The two incumbents not up for re-election were Pam Drost and Darlene Jordan.

Even with the landslide win, the city is still in turmoil. Robert Ray, a blog writer for Concern Citizens of Coffee City,  says the current council is trying to keep the new council from taking it's seats. According to Ray, the new council was legally sworn in by notary public Sandy Atteberry after the canvassing of votes. That is where the problems seems to be. Moore says it's was not legal, while Ray quotes the Texas Municipal League and the Election Division of the Texas Secretary of State supporting the action.  

According to the Dec. 10, agenda, which has already been posted, the new council will be sworn in during the regularly-scheduled city council meeting. Ray doesn't want to wait until Dec. 10, saying,  “They can change that agenda by then.”

Moore said that once the agenda is posted, city officials can add to it, but cannot remove items from it.

“The swearing in will take place on Dec. 10,” Moore promises.

Moore said that when the city found out it would in fact have a contested race on Nov. 6  during the general election, the  council signed a resolution stating the newly-elected officials would take office on Jan. 1. Typically, city elections are held in May. 

“Mayor elect Ray Wakeman and myself agreed we would go ahead, and install the newly-elected officials on Dec. 10 at the regularly-scheduled meeting,” he said.

Wakeman says he is puzzled as to why Robert Ray is involved. 

“He just contributes to the blog on the Internet for the Concerned Citizens of Coffee City.  He doesn't live or own property in Coffee City. Mayor Moore and the incoming council have agreed to have the swearing in on Dec. 10. Mayor Moore asked us what we wanted on the agenda. He has been very cooperative with the incoming council,” Wakeman said.

The two factions have asked County Attorney Clint Davis to settle its dispute, asking him to clarify the date of swearing in, and remove the outgoing council from office. 

Davis didn't take such action, saying  “Mayor Moore has agreed to swear in the new council members and  the Mayor on Dec. 10. He has posted the agenda, and I have no reason to think this won't happen.”