The battle over whether Dave Wilson is actually a Houston Community College trustee could come to a head on Thursday when the 67-year-old tries to take the seat behind the District II placard on the board’s dais.
“I’m going to represent the citizens of my district,” Wilson said Friday after a hearing on his residency. “I’m going to sit up front, vote and do the whole thing. I might even lobby to become chair.”
Wilson, a small-business owner and anti-gay activist, spoke after an hourlong hearing about the procedural machinations of a lawsuit the Harris County Attorney’s Office filed last month.
County Attorney Vince Ryan is alleging that Wilson was not legally elected to the board in November because he is not a resident of the district in which he ran.
A temporary restraining order issued in December prohibited Wilson from taking the oath of office, but Wilson filed notarized paperwork last week with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office showing he was sworn in on Jan. 1.
State District Judge Mike Englehart on Friday asked lawyers for Wilson and the county to file additional arguments about whether Wilson can take office while the lawsuit is being litigated, among other issues.
First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said the restraining order prohibits Wilson from taking the oath of office, so he is not a legal office holder.
“In my view, it would be like any citizen walking up there and sitting down,” Soard said. “It would be up to the HCC board to decide what they would do in that situation.”
Whatever else Dave Wilson may think of himself, he’s not the decider here. If Judge Engelhart puts a restraining order in place, he doesn’t get to take his seat, and that’s all there is to it. As I said before, HCC would be wise to have lawyers and security present in the event Wilson is legally barred from taking office at that time. They should explain the status of the court case to him, and for whoever else is present, and be prepared to usher him out the door if he refuses to back down. Until and unless he’s legally cleared to be sworn in by someone other than himself, he’s just another member of the public, and he should be treated as such. Obviously, if Judge Engelhart rules in Wilson’s favor then he gets to be sworn in as normal, but if not he needs to abide by that. The law applies to Dave Wilson, too.
Since it comes up in the comments every time I write about Dave Wilson, let’s be clear that I don’t fear him taking office for a minute. If he actually has evidence of current trustees or contractors or whoever else acting unethically, or if he has some hot ideas for how to improve ethics on the HCC board, great. Bring it on. But until he actually produces such evidence, or an ethics proposal, I see no reason to take him at his word. For a guy who claims to be a paragon of transparency and ethical behavior, he’s shown a remarkable willingness to push the boundaries of the law, to act deceptively for his own gain, and to be closed-mouth about his own personal information. His support of the deeply unethical Yolanda Navarro Flores at the very least calls into question his judgment about what ethical behavior is. I searched election results going back through 2001 and this is the first time he’s even run for an HCC position in that time, so it’s not like he’s some longtime crusader for this job who finally prevailed. He could prove me wrong – anything can happen – and if he does, great. More ethics is a good thing. I just see no reason to have any expectation of this outcome. I see him as a provocateur, and he managed to catch lightning in a bottle. What he does with it if he gets the chance remains to be seen, but my expectations are decidedly low.