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Wilson sued over residency for HCC

Dave Wilson and lawsuits go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The Harris County attorney sued Houston Community College trustee-elect Dave Wilson on Thursday, alleging the small business owner and anti-gay activist was not a resident of District II when he was elected to the post last month.

“We think there is a reasonable doubt as to whether he lives within the district, and it needs to be clarified,” said First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard.

The three-page civil suit petition, filed in the 151st District Court, does not say where Wilson lives, but Soard said the grounds for the lawsuit are “similar” to ones raised by the defense in a still-pending lawsuit that Wilson, a perennial candidate, brought against the Harris County Democratic Party chairman in 2010, when he was kept off the ballot after filing to run for Precinct 4 Harris County commissioner.

That year, then-Chairman Gerry Birnberg argued that Wilson was ineligible to run because he had listed an address on his application that was not his residential address, as required by election code. Wilson’s wife, Connie, still lists a property at 7370 Lake Lane, which is in the Lone Star Community College System district, as her residential homestead, according to the Harris County Appraisal District website.

Wilson, who ousted HCC Chairman Bruce Austin in the Nov. 5 election by 26 votes, contends that he lives in “a 1,140-square-foot apartment upstairs” at his office, located at 5600 W. 34th St. in the college system’s District II.

The building there is an 11,340-square-foot commercial metal warehouse, according to county records.

Asked Thursday if he was living separately from his wife, Wilson said, “That’s a personal matter, and it’s none of yours or the Chronicle’s business.”

“I think that county records still show that we’re married. That’s all I’ll say,” Wilson said.

So to review, Wilson was removed from the ballot in 2010 by then-HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg on the grounds that he did not live in County Commissioner Precinct 4. Wilson then filed a lawsuit against the HCDP to be reinstated on the ballot, but he lost. He subsequently also filed a federal lawsuit against a larger list of plaintiffs alleging that his civil rights were violated by being denied a spot on the ballot. The suit was dismissed by a federal district court, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted his petition for a rehearing in 2012. I don’t know where that now stands.

In any event, in looking at these old posts, three things stand out to me. One is that the address Wilson was using to get on the ballot in 2010 was 1512 W. 34th Street, not 5600 W. 34th Street as he apparently used for his HCC filing. He was still using the 1512 address in his 2011 filing for Mayor. Does he have more than one warehouse that he claims to be his residency when he needs it, or did he move between then and now? A little fooling around on Google Maps tells me the two addresses are 2.8 miles apart. Not very far, but it’s not impossible that one might cross a political boundary or two in the journey. That would be another reason why it would ne nice to know when he started using the 5600 address. Second, while Wilson is playing coy with his marital status now, in 2010 he stated he that he was in fact separated from his wife. Finally, the one constant in all this is the 7370 Lake Lane address where Connie Wilson lives. Make of this what you will.

So what this means is that we ought to get a fuller airing of the facts this time. In 2010 he was booted at Gerry Birnberg’s discretion, and the courts declined to give Wilson relief. Here it’s Harris County that’s taking action after the fact, and I very much look forward to seeing the case play out. The HCC Board itself says it wasn’t their job to vet the candidate filing. That’s a question Rep. Harold Dutton brought up to them, and I have a sneaking suspicion Rep. Dutton will attempt to deal with that in the next legislative session. Wilson ran again for County Commissioner in Precinct 4 in 2012. That time, his application was accepted, and he wound up losing in the primary to Sean Hemmerle. I don’t know which address he used for that application, but clearly someone should find that out. If he was still using 1512 W. 34th Street, then he needs to be pinned down on when he moved.

Anyway. The saga continues, as they often do. No indication in the story when there will be a hearing on this, but one presumes it will be after the holidays. One also presumes the question of whether or not the County Attorney has standing to file such a suit will arise. Like I said, I very much look forward to seeing how this plays out.

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5 Comments

  1. Phil K. says:

    Golly, a Houston-area politician not living in the district — I’m shocked, shocked! Actually I am shocked there is a suit…of course with an unrelated agenda. I hope all the other non-resident politicians get subpoenas to discuss their examples. At least Dave spends some time in the area of his apartment.

    A final thought on the HCC issue. A 24-year incumbent doesn’t lose an election unless his constituents want him to. The issue isn’t that they didn’t know what Dave Wilson looked like, it is that they didn’t know what Bruce Austin, their elected representative, looked like! He was a long-term fixture and Chairman of an institution that had clearly become dysfunctional. Some politicians deserve to be fired.

  2. joshua ben bullard says:

    This is clearly a political tactic by old school back office democrat vince ryan,my god the nerve of the guy to just completely entitle himself above the voters vote is making me sick,

    wow
    Joshua ben bullard

  3. David G says:

    I think it is a day late and a dollar short to throw Dave Wilson out of his seat after he won the election. His opponent probably wanted him on the ballot because he thought it was an easy win. You cannot have it both ways.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    The time to have vetted Wilson was when he was filing for office, or even running for office. At this point, what should be done? Does the Harris County attorney feel it’s in the taxpayer’s best interest to put a few detectives on the case, seeing where Wilson spends his nights sleeping? How much taxpayer money will be spent playing politics, because the Harris County attorney doesn’t like the outcome of a particular race?

    The guy won, and if you don’t like it, point fingers at 1) the vast majority of citizens who could have voted, but did not, and 2) the voters who did vote, but failed to do their due diligence, assuming that he was elected by folks who didn’t want to be represented by a guy best known for being anti-gay. Personally, I’d rather be known as the guy who fights for lower taxes, improved streets and drainage, or even just as the guy who fights to prosecute illegal dumpers and clean up the trash dump the city has become. But hey, maybe, those few folks that actually voted, DID vote their moral convictions and chose the guy they wanted.

  5. Steve Houston says:

    I concur that filing after he won makes no sense considering how many others in similar situations dance around the residency issue so openly. If there was any doubt, it could have been brought up beforehand or as a campaign issue, the truth being that the average voter does not seem to care about it nor do the courts.

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