February 08, 2008
Another Farmers Branch lawsuit

Another lawsuit has been filed against Farmers Branch and its continuing anti-immigrant assault, this one on the grounds that its City Council violated open meetings laws when it considered the new ordinance that banned undocumented aliens from renting apartments or houses but shifted the burden of proof from landlords to the city.

The new lawsuit, filed by the Bickel & Brewer Storefront on behalf of resident Guillermo Ramos, alleges that city officials improperly met behind closed doors about the new ordinance before the City Council adopted it Jan. 22.

The city has exhibited a "sustained and deliberate" course of conduct violating open meetings laws, said William A. Brewer III of Bickel & Brewer.

The firm and Mr. Ramos also filed state district court suits alleging open meetings violations in the city's consideration of two earlier versions of the rental ban. And Bickel & Brewer is representing apartment owners and tenants in a federal suit challenging the constitutionality of the version that voters approved last May.

The new lawsuit alleges that the ordinance couldn't have been drafted and presented without direction from the council and that, because that direction didn't occur during public meetings, it had to have happened in private consultation with attorneys. That, the suit says, was a violation of state open meetings law.

Lawyer Michael Jung, who drafted the newest ordinance for the city, didn't return phone messages seeking comment Tuesday.

When city officials announced Jan. 17 that the council would consider the latest rental measure, City Manager Gary Greer said that council members hadn't seen or discussed the proposal and that they had received copies of it just that day.

In addition to blocking the new ordinance, the suit asks the court to require the city to keep all council meetings, in their entirety, open to the public and to refrain from open meetings violations.

This is the second such lawsuit filed by Mr. Ramos and the Bickel & Brewer Storefront, also over the open meetings issue. The first one is still being litigated. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 08, 2008 to National news