Wild and wacky Godley, Texas, outdid itself with an email from the city secretary to City Council Member Jennifer Thompson at exactly 5 p.m. on Friday, the deadline for her to file for re-election.
“On the dot,” Thompson told The Daily Beast.
Thompson had almost decided not to run after she was arrested outside City Hall a half-hour before a regularly scheduled Feb. 7 council meeting for supposedly altering a draft of the agenda. Instead of attending the meeting and voting against Mayor Acy McGehee on a variety of issues, Thompson was strip-searched and told to squat and spread her butt cheeks and cough at the jail.
But her little city of under 2,000 responded with a huge outpouring of support for her, and she decided she would run again after all. She told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that she submitted her signed application to City Secretary Kathleen Rice along with the required certified supporting documents around 11:30 a.m. on Feb 16, a day ahead of the deadline.
“I confirmed with the city secretary she had everything she needed and she assured [me] I would be included on the ballot,” Thompson remembered.
Then came the email from Rice when there was not even a minute to do anything about it.
“After reviewing your application and accompanying documents, it has been determined that you are ineligible to run for City Council,” it said.
Thompson has been given no explanation. She might have thought McGehee was using the Feb. 7 arrest as a pretext for disqualification, but she says she was told on Tuesday that prosecutors will not be pursuing the charges.
The Johnson County District Attorney’s office declined comment, and the county attorney did not respond to queries from The Beast. But Thompson shared a copy of a letter that the county attorney’s office sent to the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center concerning the charge of tampering with a government record.
“We will not be filing this criminal charge at this time,” the Feb. 10 letter says.
Thompson texted the Daily Beast a copy of the letter on Tuesday and reported that she had just been told by the district attorney’s office that “if the County Attorney did not pick it up, then I am done & the case had been dropped.”
Another possible reason for the disqualification is that Thompsopn pleaded guilty to two felony counts of fraudulent use of an identity document 19 years ago. But Texas law only bars felons from holding public office if they have not been “pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities.” The disabilities are incarceration, parole, probation and ineligibility to vote.
“I am not in jail… I am not on parole… I am not on probation… I am a REGISTERED ACTIVE voter… I AM ELIGIBLE,” Thompson texted The Daily Beast.
Thompson is now determined not only to get on the ballot but also to win.
“I am going to fight it,” she said. “I am not rich, but I will figure it out.”
Her Feb. 7 arrest sparked an uproar in Godley. Many felt that Thompson had been targeted by the mayor and Godley’s entrenched hierarchy after she raised questions about the way the city was being run. Her queries led to the city administrator, the city attorney, and the city secretary resigning en masse.
“I am curious to see how they silence me and keep me from the dais.”
— Jennifer Thompson
In the wake of the departures, McGehee closed City Hall. But he still faced a list of more than a dozen potentially troublesome items that Thompson moved to bring before the City Council at the Feb. 7 meeting: an asset inventory, budget lines, employee qualifications, staff salaries, expenses, gifts received by city officials. And Thompson had allied herself with two others in the five-member body. McGehee had two allies of his own, but the mayor could only vote in a tie, which meant Thompson would have a winning majority.
But while she was under arrest, being humiliated behind bars, the mayor broke tie after tie.
As can be plainly seen in video of the Feb. 7 meeting, McGehee was seated with his two allies seated on either side of him. He repeatedly nudged them to signal when the time came for them to vote a particular way.
Thompson planned to talk about that at this Tuesday’s meeting, but it was canceled on Friday. The official explanation was that the interim city attorney had a scheduling conflict. “In my opinion, he did not want to be put on the spot for his fraudulent voting scheme,” Thompson said.
McGehee had avoided three earlier meetings that promised to be uncomfortable, twice by simply skipping it with his allies so there was no quorum and once by forgetting to post the agenda 72 hours in advance, as required by law.
The next council meeting is on March 7, and Thompson says she is sure to be there.
“I am curious to see how they silence me and keep me from the dais,” she said.