No Criminal Charges In Recall Dispute - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/15/07

No Criminal Charges In Recall Dispute

Those wanting to oust Lubbock City Councilwoman Linda DeLeon from office say they're not finished, despite Thursday's announcement that the district attorney will not pursue criminal charges.

Organizers of the effort to recall DeLeon allege that she influenced City Secretary Becky Garza's Office.  In September, they sent a letter to Garza, claiming she threw out more than 30 signatures in their second petition that should've been counted and said they would sue if she didn't count those names.

Garza did not, so organizers gave District Attorney Matt Powell affidavits alleging criminal conduct against DeLeon and Garza. 

Thursday, Powell announced he would not prosecute.  His letter to NewsChannel 11 states:

After reviewing the materials presented and the applicable case law, the D.A's office will not pursue charges against anyone regarding the municipal recall petition.

This decision is based in part on the following:  there is no applicable criminal statute under which to prosecute.

Section 273.001 of the Election Code applie to "conduct in connection with" an election. A recall petition is a collateral attack on a completed election. Signatures on the recall petitions are not "votes" and the recall petitions are not included in the definitions of a "ballot." Therefore, there is no clear unambiguous criminal offense. The law does not allow for prosecution by analogy.

Futhermore, even if there were some arguments to be made that the statute does apply, the affidavits are insufficient to require further investigation. First, the affidavits are not based on personal knowledge of an alleged crime. Second, they do not state any allegation of criminal conduct.

For the above stated reasons, the Criminal District Attorney's office is not authorized or required to take any further action on this matter.

Mayor David Miller sent NewsChannel 11 this statement:

"I appreciate District Attorney Matt Powell for taking the time and care necessary to review this issue. Today's announcement re-confirms my confidence in the integrity, not only in the system itself, but most importantly in City Secretary Becky Garza and her staff. Ms. Garza conducts business in a highly professional and ethical manner."

Petition organizers say this latest development won't stop their effort.

"We want to pursue a civil suit. You know we're disappointed that Matt Powell could not find a way to prosecute them, but we're not finished," petition co-organizer Armando Gonzales said. 

Gonzales tells NewsChannel 11 they're also planning a third recall petition. He says they will continue their efforts until DeLeon leaves office.

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