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City smacked with $4 million lawsuit

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The Ellis County Press

1,200 annexed on 6-1 vote

MIDLOTHIAN – Shortly before the city council’s 6-1 vote annexed 1,200 residents in the Midlothian area Tuesday, Nov. 25, lawyer Todd Phillippi smacked a $4 million Open Meetings Act lawsuit against Mayor Boyce Whatley and councilmen Joe Frizzell and Dusty Fryer.

The three-year battle to annex residents in two large swaths of residential homes ended after numerous residents voiced opposition to the decision. Councilman Ken Chambers was the lone dissenter on the seven-member council.

Phillippi, who had been hired by Chambers after a mayor-led ethics subcommittee investigation turned up nothing against the outspoken councilman, said Midlothian violated the First Amendment and the Texas Open Meetings Act for failure to post agenda items on what the subcommittee would be seeking to find.

Chambers is asking for $1 million from the three council colleagues and $1 million from the City of Midlothian.

The main argument is that subcommittees are governmental bodies, Phillippi said, and thus are required to post meetings and reveal documents pertaining to investigations.

"They sanctioned [Chambers] and violated his First Amendment rights, they sanctioned him into not talking," Phillippi said. "You can’t do that."

When approached about the lawsuit before Midlothian’s meeting convened, Chambers said city officials were "very quiet."

Elected last year after ousting the author of the city’s smoking ban, Chambers has been a lightning rod of controversy.

He was originally accused by the mayor for embarrassing city staff during open meetings, discussing issues with Ken Halverson, a contractor who had a lawsuit against Midlothian for illegal airport hangars at Midlothian’s shared municipal airport (the City of Waxahachie is the other participant and defendant), and for mentioning a black city council candidate as "b/f," the law enforcement designation for black females.

The subcommittee was a staffed by Whatley, Fryer and Frizzell, who was also elected to his first term last year against a write-in opponent.


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