By week's end, District 2 council candidate Billy MacLeod expects to file in state and federal court a lawsuit over the city's decision not to remove Esperanza "Hope" Medrano Elementary School from its list of polling locations for the May 14 election. As you're no doubt aware by now, MacLeod wants the polling location moved to Sam Houston Elementary because, after all, the school is named for the mother of his competitor -- Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano.
As far as he's concerned, having the name "Medrano" all over the place is a "clear violation" of the Texas Election Code, which prohibits electioneering within 100 feet of "an outside door through which a voter may enter the building." Brylon Franklin, who oversees election judges for Dallas County's elections department, told Unfair Park last week "can understand where [MacLeod]'s coming from."
MacLeod has taken his case to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has 60 days to respond and has yet to do so. He's taken his case to the City Attorney's Office, which told him just today it won't do anything unless there's "council action" on the matter of moving polling locations. Which means he's out of luck: City Secretary Deborah Watkins tells Unfair Park today she's not going to ask council to consider moving locations.
"We'll be taking some polling location changes and election judge changes to the council on April 27," she says. "I always do that close to election day. We aren't able to find and complete all the polling locations nor election judges by March 9, when the council OK'd the locations. Plus, people get sick, and all kinds of things happen. But I don't see any reason to make an exception in this case. And I sent that to Mr. MacLeod in a letter. I told him that about a week ago. But the council has already voted on Esperanza Medrano Elementary, and I'm not going back to council to ask them to change it."
In a letter to MacLeod dated April 6, Watkins told him, point blank, "There will be no recommended change for the polling location." At which point he called the city secretary and said he just might have to sue. At which point, Watkins said, "That's up to you. I don't control whether or not you sue the city. That's up to you." At least, that's how she recalls it.
And MacLeod says today that a lawsuit "looks like the only option I have to get a vote in front of the city council to counter her recommendation to keep the polling location at Medrano Elementary. I'll have to to sue in both state and federal court. ... The name on the building, and the placard on the front, violate the electioneering law. ... It's a sad day when I can't even get them to vote against me. The city secretary has ruled against me. That is her choice, and it is a choice. But the Dallas City Council has the ultimate decision on polling locations.
"All I am asking is for the council to vote for or against keeping Medrano Elementary the location. The fact that she will not allow a vote is telling. Everyone on the planet sees a problem with this except them, and that includes Dallas County. I gave them an opportunity to do the right thing and the City of Dallas has chosen to protect one of their own. It seems they are looking out for their Deputy Mayor. So if I have to go to court to wake them up to the reality of law that is what I will do. They had the option to vote against me. Now they give me no option but to file against them."
MacLeod has won one battle, at least for the moment: In that same letter, Watkins confirms what she told us last week -- that she will ask the council at its April 27 meeting to replace Armando Cruz as election judge for Precinct 3007. Cruz was recommended by Pauline Medrano. But, writes Watkins in her letter to MacLeod, "At my request, Dallas County Elections Office recommended Yvonne Williams to serve as the election judge for Precinct 3007. On April 27th, there will be an item on the agenda to recommend changes in election judges for the upcoming election that will include Yvonne Williams' name as election judge for Precinct 3007."
Which brings us to the final bit of business: Today MacLeod stopped by Dallas City Hall to file an ethics complaint against Pauline Medrano over her appointing Cruz to the position of election judge in the first place. Alleges MacLeod, Cruz works for the Medrano family. Messages have been left for the deputy mayor pro tem. She has yet to respond.Pauline Medrano Ethics Complaint