There's something rotten in Duncanville city government. Twenty-four of the past 30 months spent without a permanent city manager, a City Council bitterly divided, and now this: The city of Duncanville is suing Mayor Deborah Hodge.
Yes, that is a thing that can happen. The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday by the city attorney. The claim? That Hodge was arbitrarily requiring a two-thirds super-majority for basic council actions.
The squabble is best explained using the U.S. Senate as an analogy. For decades, the Senate has had a rule that, in effect, means you need a 60-vote supermajority to get anything done. The rule itself, though, could be changed by a simple majority, which is what finally happened when Democrats grew sufficiently frustrated with the slow progress of Obama's nominations.
Duncanville City Council rules also require a supermajority for certain things: closing debate, deviating from the agenda and removing the mayor pro-tem. In Hodge's view, changing the rules is also on that list, an insurmountable task when the council is immovably split 4-3.
Three times a majority of council members have voted to change the rules, and three times Hodge has declared the vote invalid -- illegally, says the lawsuit.
"Basically, we've had enough," says Councilman Patrick Harvey.
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Harvey says the council's schism goes back years but that it has intensified under Hodge. He attributes it to a basic misunderstanding of the council-manager form of government.
"Every time [the motion to change the council's rules] comes up, she says 'I require a 2/3 vote,'" he says. "You're in a council-manager form of government, but you have a mayor who's acting like a strong mayor."
Hodge hasn't yet returned a call or emails seeking comment, but it's clear her opponents aren't the only ones who can toss out allegations of rule-breaking. At Tuesday's meeting, the council convened closed hearings to investigate complaints that Harvey and his three allies were violating the city charter.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.