Court denies Fair Campaign restraining order

HomeCampaign FinanceCourt denies Fair Campaign restraining order

After losing court decision, runoff candidates Alter and Velasquez dropped their claim for a share of the Fair Campaign Finance Fund

Only runoff candidates Daniela Silva and Linda Guerrero, in Districts 3 and 9, respectively, will each get shares of the Austin Fair Campaign Finance Fund for having signed and complied with Campaign Contracts. The Austin Bulldog reported November 15th they will each receive $33,063.27.

Ryan Joseph Alter
Jose Velasquez

That didn’t sit well with District 3 runoff candidate Jose Velasquez and District 5 runoff candidate Ryan Alter. In an effort to get a share of the $66,000-plus balance in the Fund, they filed a request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against City Clerk Myrna Rios. (Case No. D-1-GN-22-006650)

Litigation filed to stop payments

The 50-page petition claimed Alter and Velasquez were “denied funds for which they qualify under the Austin Fair Campaign Ordinance, despite following all requirements as established by defendant Myrna Rios through her official guidance and previous action.”

A key part of the motion was that the Candidate Packet issued by the City Clerk “set the deadline for individuals to sign the campaign contract as the date the person files for an application for a place on the ballot.”

That guidance was erroneous. The City’s Law Department ruled that only Guerrero and Silva were eligible.

Cleve Doty

Judge Cleve Doty of the 455th Judicial District Court, appointed to the bench by Governor Greg Abbott in October 2021, today ruled against the TRO request. (Doty, a Republican, was defeated by Democrat Laurie Eiserloh in the November 8th election, 72-28 percent.)

Lawyer says city acted appropriately

Bill Aleshire
Bill Aleshire

Attorney Bill Aleshire said in an email that Doty ruled from the bench and did not issue a written order. Aleshire represented Guerrero, along with District 5 runoff candidate Stephanie Bazan. He was ready to file suit on their behalf should the judge grant Alter and Velasquez the TRO.

“Judge Doty denied the attempt by Ryan Alter and Jose Velasquez to obtain public funds for their campaigns that they are not eligible to receive,” Aleshire said in an email. “The law (see attached) is crystal clear. To be eligible for public funding, the candidate must sign the Fair Campaign Contract within 30 days of becoming a candidate and accepting a campaign contribution is one way of becoming a candidate.

“While Linda Guerrero and Daniela Silva complied with the law and signed the Contract on time, Alter and Velasquez did not timely sign the Contract. Both of those candidates campaigned for months, taking contributions, before they signed the Contract. They clearly missed the legal deadline to obtain Fair Campaign Contract funds. Guerrero and Silva are the only candidates who complied and they are each entitled to half of the $66,126.54 available for distribution.

Aleshire, who represents The Austin Bulldog in public information requests, additionally noted, “The correct distribution of Fair Campaign Funds has been a problem in the past. I am pleased we were able to set it right for this election and elections in the future. Now that Mr. Alter and Mr. Velasquez realize the law on distribution of public funds will be enforced, this should be the end of their litigious attempt to obtain funds to which they are not entitled.  It would forewarn a bad omen for their potential service on the Austin City Council if Alter and Velasquez think the Austin City Code does not have to be followed.”

Aleshire followed up with an email exchange with Ryan Alter stating that he was preparing a Petition in Intervention should the judge’s TRO rejection be appealed. Alter replied at 12:46pm today that the ruling will not be appealed.

The Bulldog reported the unfair distribution of Fair Campaign Funds back as far as 2014, when District 3 siblings and opponents Susana Almanza and Sabino “Pio” Renteria each got $27,988.58, as did District 7 candidate Leslie Pool. In reality all the money should have gone to Pool, as the story detailed.

Funds due to be disbursed, losers boosting ladies

Guerrero and Silva were scheduled to receive those big checks after the official canvassing of the votes, which was on today’s agenda for a special-called City Council meeting. A resolution to approve the canvass was unanimously approved in a meeting that adjourned at 9:54am. A city spokesman informed the Bulldog that funds are “expected to be disbursed in the coming days.”

The $33,000-plus that Silva will receive is greater than the $30,132 she raised since kicking off her campaign March 4th. Although Velasquez raised more than $104,000—more than three times what Silva raised. Yet she trailed him by just 422 votes in the November 8th election. Silva got a big boost, however, as two opponents on the ballot in District 3 are endorsing her in the runoff, Jose Noe Elias and Garvino Fernandez Jr. In addition, Bertha Rendon Delgado, who sought a place on the ballot but was denied due to a felony conviction, also endorsed Silva. All three attended a rally for Silva yesterday at the Montopolis Recreation and Community Center.

That $33,000 is not quite half the $72,000 Guerrero raised since announcing her candidacy June 6th. It gives her a big boost in competing against Zohaib “Zo” Qadri in the runoff, as he had raised $98,000. She trailed him by 2,731 votes in the November 8th election, 22.34 percent to his 29.94 percent.

A transcript of the council meeting action indicates the council voted unanimously to approve the resolution canvassing and accepting the returns of the November 8, 2022, general and special election.

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Photo of Ken MartinTrust indicators: Ken Martin has been doing investigative reporting in the three-county Austin metro area since 1981. His aggressive reporting twice garnered first-place national awards for investigative reporting. Both of those projects resulted in successful criminal prosecutions. His 2011 investigation of the Austin City Council’s open meetings violations triggered a 21-month investigation by the Travis County attorney that resulted in the mayor and council members signing deferred prosecution agreements to avoid being charged, tried, and if convicted serving one to six months in jail and forfeiting their elective offices. See more on Ken on the About page. Email [email protected].

Related documents:

Original Petition for Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Temporary & Permanent Injunction, Breach of Contract, Promissory Estoppel, Equal Protection, and Declaratory Judgment, November 21, 2022 (50 pages)

Related Bulldog coverage:

Guerrero and Silva earn $33,000 runoff bonuses, November 15, 2022

Mayoral race and three council contests will go to runoffs, November 9, 2022

Watson grabbed 70 percent of mayoral donations, November 3, 2022

Watson circumvented law to fund new medical school, November 1, 2022

What kind of legislator was Celia Israel? October 28, 2022

What kind of mayor was Watson? October 24, 2022

Candidates offer competing visions on homelessness, October 18, 2022

2022 candidates have raised $3 million-plus, October 14, 2022

The man who would be mayor…again, October 10, 2022

Want to get elected but not be accountable? September 28, 2022

Mayor and council candidates rake up $2.3 million, September 7, 2022

Urbanists vie to replace council member Kathie Tovo, August 30, 2022

Let the mayor and council campaigns begin, August 22, 2022

Fair Campaign funds allocated unfairly, December 1, 2014

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