Opinion > Letters To The Editor
Letter to the editor: Why my lawsuit against the city was halted
By Al Brewster
My lawsuit against the city of Frisco concerning the Arts Center of North Texas issue has drawn considerable media attention. While I was pleased with that, as I talk to people who know me, I find a disconnect in their understanding of what I was doing.
I hope this letter may clear that misperception: I was not trying to "get my money back." That phrase causes people to think that I expected my $500 back from the ACNT, but I have no questions regarding their use of my or other supporter's funds.
I also accept that Frisco voters revoked the authority to issue additional bonds continuing the ACNT project. My case against the city centered on the City Council's actions in carrying out the voters' directions. Frisco's city attorney told the council and voters that approval of the ballot issue would result in the City's "terminating its interest in, and forfeit any rights to the project."
The council had opportunity to do exactly that by approving the Feb. 16, 2011, request from the ACNT to allow them to retain the donated land, funds on hand, engineered plans and reorganize as a "non-governmental 501 (c)3 corporation" and continue as planned. Frisco denied that request and set the city up for lawsuits for both "tortuous interference of contract" and negligence damages resulting from their actions. I hoped to recover my $500 from Frisco, as damages -- which I would donate to any future arts center in Collin County.
I believed this suit would bring attention to poor judgment exercised by the current council members. However, I failed in both areas, as no residents have volunteered to run for the two City Council seats up for grabs in May, so they will continue in office by default. I understand this, as I often state that I have great admiration for residents who put themselves into a Frisco City Council job, considering the exceedingly small stipend the city currently provides, and one must be wealthy to consider doing so.
Concerning my court case, I will not have "my day" in court to present my issues to a judge for decision. I am not an attorney, but I did extensive research into Texas laws and thought I had a strong, presentable case.
The city attorney advised the court that the judge lacked jurisdiction on my case, as the city had not agreed to be sued. U.S. law is based on English law, which contained the principal "the king can do no wrong." This was referred to in U.S. law as sovereign immunity from standing trial. In 1969, the Texas Legislature passed the Texas Tort Claims Act, listing 36 activities of cities considered governmental -- "those imposed on cities by the state" -- and established liability limits in those cases.
It listed three "proprietary" functions -- "those that a city may perform at its discretion." In practice, anything not included in the 36 was considered "proprietary," and the law provides in these cases "the city is liable to the same extent as a private entity or individual." In my opinion, entering into an agreement with adjacent cities to build an arts center was clearly a "propriety" function, and the city was liable.
My lawsuit was based on that information and opinion. However (not uncovered in my prior research), the Texas Supreme Court changed their interpretation of the law in the late 1990s and ruled that before you could bring suit against a Texas city, you "must first obtain their agreement to be sued for the act." Hello? Can anyone even imagine a king agreeing to be sued? Or a Texas city?
Unfortunately, that ruling is legal precedence, and the judge must follow it. I was forced to request my case be dismissed.
So: the king can do no wrong in Frisco, Texas, and I can only hope that the voters of the city remember this fact in future elections.