Retired Harris County commissioner sues colleagues over redrawn map

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Tuesday, January 4, 2022
Retired Harris Co. commissioner sues colleagues over redrawn map
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Former Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack is suing his former colleagues over a newly drawn county voting map.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A former Harris County commissioner is taking his former colleagues to court over a newly drawn county voting map. Steve Radack told ABC13 the commissioner's court violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when they passed the map.

Radack retired from the court a year ago. But he, again, engaged with the county as the plaintiff in a lawsuit that accuses the commission and Judge Lina Hidalgo of not following the law. The suit alleges the commission did not properly publicly post the meeting at which the Democratic majority voted to change the county's precinct map based on the new census.

"It's so significant when you deal with people's right to vote," Radack said. "For the last three years, these three Democratic members of the court have played 'loosey goosey' with the Open Meetings Act and it's going to catch up with them this time."

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The county attorney's office, however, said the suit is meritless.

"There's a lot of case law that says what has to be in those notices, and we followed it to a T," said First Assistant County Attorney Jonathan Fombonne. "There's no question that anyone was confused about what the purpose of the meeting was."

Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis drew the map, which does benefit the Democratic majority on the commissioner's court and would make it more difficult for Republicans to win in any of the five precincts.

"I'm confident we did everything that we were advised to do," Ellis said.

He has not seen the suit but believes they gave the public plenty of notice.

"Every member of commissioner's court knew what was in the maps. The public knew that we were doing redistricting. Look, it's always a difficult process. There was far more transparency here than the commissioner's court had in the past," Ellis said.

Commissioner Jack Cagle, a Republican, disagrees and supports the lawsuit. His district was markedly changed in the new map and it threatens his seat.

"You moved 2.3 million people from their old precincts by this map," Cagle said. "And the public should have had to look at it. The public should have had a chance to make comments."

If Radack were to win his suit, it could invalidate the new map, though the county attorney's office is confident commissioners followed the law.

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