I have always been fascinated with the concept that is the lawsuit. Most people usually think of neck braces and rear-end collisions when that phrase goes flying, but every so often, a lawsuit usually entails a governmental entity and one or more unhappy citizens.
Several high-profile lawsuits made their way through Nueces County last year, the last of which has led to metaphorical ban on discussions pertaining to the Heritage Center arena, the final piece of the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds.
Naturally, it wouldn't have been much of a new year if the first month didn't end with a lawsuit.
A resident of the Calallen Independent School District filed a lawsuit claiming a bond election held last year was void because a public notice published in this very newspaper left out one of the school district's nine precincts. Also on the ballot was a proposition seeking to refinance about $450,000 in debt incurred by the school district in 2002.
I was one of a handful of people who watched the proceedings take place last week at the Nueces County Courthouse. It was interesting for me to see all of the arguments being given by both sides, but what most stuck in my mind was the impact the case was having.
I covered a Calallen ISD school board meeting last year during which a discussion was taking place about how to go about issuing the $43 million in bonds approved by voters. Not too long after that, Karen Ford filed her lawsuit, essentially bringing a halt to any further discussion or action on the bonds.
The money approved by the registered voters in the Calallen ISD will be used to build a new Magee Intermediate School building, make improvements to the high school football stadium, as well as a host of other district-wide renovations. These types of projects require months of planning and time for discussion between architects, contractors and the school board.
The lawsuit filed by Ford was irresponsible in that doing so delayed the issuance of the bonds by nearly two months. One could argue that the projects, as a result, are now two months behind as well.
Even more astonishing was the request to invalidate November's bond election and do it all over again. This despite the fact that doing so would cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, even though voting statistics showed the two propositions passed by almost a two-to-one margin.
Basically, it was likely that the election would have had the same outcome at extra cost to the school district and its taxpayers, and visiting Judge Joaquin Villarreal decided that was simply out of the question.
To me, that was the only decision there was to make, and I hope that in the future, people will think twice about filing a lawsuit that some might look back on as being "frivolous."
After all, I think the school district has learned a valuable (and costly) lesson. But it was a lesson that didn't have to take place in a courtroom at the expense of Calallen's taxpayers, though. What a shame.
Tim Olmeda is the news editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org