Former Bee Cave City Council Member Bill Goodwin has a lawsuit pending at the 3rd Court of Appeals about his removal from office in 2020. The council term he was prevented from completing by his removal ended this spring and the city has asked the court to declare the case moot. However, Goodwin's legal team is arguing that the case still needs to be heard.
The lawsuit goes back to when the council voted on June 17, 2020, to remove Goodwin for violating the City Charter that March.
The violation occurred when Goodwin, who was serving as acting mayor sent an email to City Manager Clint Garza and a few other staff members urging them to attend a March 24 City Council meeting in person despite fears of the growing coronavirus pandemic. At the time, orders limiting public gatherings and allowing teleconferencing had been put into place to help slow the spread of the disease.
City leaders argued that Goodwin violated the charter in communicating directly with staff instead of following protocol and going through Garza when communicating to staff.
Goodwin's lawyer Bill Aleshire said that, among other issues with Goodwin's removal, the council should not have been able to vote to remove him for a violation that occurred during a previous term of office. Goodwin was reelected between sending the email in question and being ousted.
Aleshire said that because the issue at the heart of the lawsuit is whether or not the council can remove an elected official for a violation from a previous term, the lawsuit is not moot even though Goodwin's would-be term is now over.
The lawsuit has been at the 3rd Court of Appeals for over a year. A district court ruled last June that Mayor Kara King and the members of the Bee Cave City Council did not have the legal authority under the city charter to remove Bill Goodwin from his council seat, and therefore the decision is void. The city then appealed the decision to the 3rd Court of Appeals.
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The city formally asked the court in May to find the lawsuit moot, according to Garza. He also noted that a separate lawsuit Goodwin filed against Courtney Hohl, who filled his vacant seat, was dismissed.
Aleshire said he wants this case seen for several reasons. First, because this precedent could impact future council members. Aleshire also said if Goodwin wants to run again, there is nothing stopping the council from removing him over the same email in the future.
"There's a concept in the law. That case may become moot. But that doesn't mean the court won't go ahead and address the legal issue," he said. "We're asking the court to go ahead and make the determination even though it won't benefit Bill at this stage."
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Second, Aleshire said, the case needs to be seen through because Goodwin's reputation has been negatively impacted. A determination about whether the removal was lawful will help settle the situation, he said.
Aleshire expressed frustration that the case has been with the 3rd Court of Appeals for so long and said he does not think it should be dismissed before it is heard.
"This case has been pending for over a year at the 3rd Court of Appeals," he said. "We've begged them to expedite their decision and they haven't. I don't know what's going on."
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Bill Goodwin's lawsuit against Bee Cave continues