Feb 23, 2009

Philip R. Klein: Busted Again On Lumberton!

On Friday, Feb. 20, 2009, Philip R. Klein published an article on David Bellow, where he accused Bellow of an ad hominem attack on Lumberton City Council member Don Burnett.

Well, Bellow cannot seem to get it right. He simply does what he wants to do. Makes it up as he goes and that has created a challenge to the previous election which has cost the taxpayers money.

Now - adding insult to injury for the young budding politico - he has gone after a very popular city council person Don Burnett.

This past week the SETPR received an email with a press release. So we wanted to sit back and watch and see if the mainstream would pick up on it - and guess what? Nobody picked up on it. Leaving Mr. Bellows in the woods alone.

The press release was an attack on Councilman Burnett - and the review looked into the accusations that Bellow launched at Burnett - and guess what? None of them were true. As well, the media looked into to them and found that none of them were true.

However, Philip failed to inform his readers that the Texas Secretary of State's office revised their original opinion based on Burnett's misrepresentation of the facts.  In the Texas Secretary of State's opinion, Burnett's question is enclosed in quotes (emphasis is mine):

January 30, 2009

Mr. Don Burnett
City Councilman
City of Lumberton

Dear Mr. Burnet:

You have asked our office to opine on the following question: "Can a city that has no legal status to sell alcohol, therefore is dry, hold an election to make it dry?"  After the repeal of prohibition, Texas state law provided that political subdivisions were generally "dry" by default, meaning that the sale of liquor was prohibited. As a result, counties, cities, and justice of the peace precincts are generally "dry" except where the voters have approved the sale of liquor pursuant to a local option liquor election.

It is my understanding that the City of Lumberton, has never had an election to change their dry status; therefore, the city is still dry. Section 501.035(c)-(f) of the Texas Election Code prescribes the types of prohibitory liquor elections authorized to be voted on within the State of Texas once the voting unit has taken on a wet status. Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 501.035 (Vernon Supp. 2008). For example, Subsection (c) provides as follows:

(c) In an area where the sale of all alcoholic beverages including mixed beverages has been legalized, the ballot for a prohibitory election shall be prepared to permit voting for or against the one of the following issues that applies:

(1)  "The legal sale of beer for off-premise consumption only."
(2)  "The legal sale of beer.", . . .
Id. § 501.035 (c) (emphasis added).

Accordingly, it is our opinion that the commissioners court does not have the authority to order a prohibitory liquor election in a territory that is already dry even if the petition meets all the minimum statutory requirements. There is a well-established line of case law that requires either statutory or constitutional authorization to call an election. In Smith v Morton Independent School District, 85 S.W.2d 853, 858 (Tex.Civ.App.--Amarillo 1935, writ dism'd), the court held “In our form of government elections must be held by virtue of some legal authority, and an election held without affirmative statutory authority or contrary to a material provision of the law is universally held to be a nullity.”

If you have other questions, please contact our office toll-free at 800-252-VOTE (8683).

Yours truly,

Ann McGeehan
Director of Elections

Burnett did not inform the Secretary of State's office that portions of Lumberton allow for sales of alcoholic beverages, which substantially changed the issue.  As a result, Ms. McGeehan rescinded the opinion (emphasis is again mine):

Dear Mr. Owens:

This email is in response to your questions about a possible local option liquor election in the City of Lumberton.  On January 30, 2009, this office wrote a letter to Lumberton City Councilmember Don Burnet concerning the following question: "Can a city that has no legal status to sell alcohol, therefore is dry, hold an election to make it dry?"  Our letter response to Mr. Burnet indicated that a city with an existing “dry” liquor status has no legal authority to an election on the issue of adopting a “dry” liquor status.  Since we issued the January 30th letter, additional facts have been presented to the office, and we issue this email to clarify the letter of January 30th.  We are also copying Mr. Don Burnet, Ms. Rebecca Walton, Mr. Kenneth Legendre, Mr. David Bellow, and Ms. Glenda Alston.

Specifically, we have been informed that the City of Lumberton’s liquor status is not completely dry.  In fact, some of the city’s territory is said to contain land on which limited forms of alcohol sales are legal.  We have been informed that Hardin County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 has a “wet” liquor status and part of the city’s territory extends into this “wet” J.P. precinct.

Based on the facts currently presented to us, it appears that because alcohol sales are legal in part of the City of Lumberton, the citizens of Lumberton may petition for a prohibition election to limit alcohol sales throughout the city.  If the city had been subject to a blanket prohibition on all alcohol sales, and if that prohibition had applied to the entire territory of the city, then a prohibition election would not have been authorized.  However, we would like to emphasize that our response today is based on the facts as presented.  Local option liquor elections are extremely fact specific and the Office of the Secretary of State is not a fact finding body.  Ultimately, the decision on whether a local option petition is valid or even authorized lies with the governing body in charge of ordering the election, Hardin County Commissioners Court.  We issue this email to clarify earlier legal advice, but we are not issuing a ruling on the specific petition that is before the Hardin County Commissioners Court.  We hope you find this clarification helpful, and please do not hesitate to contact this office if we can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Ann McGeehan
Director of Elections
Office of the Secretary of State

Because of this misrepresentation, Hardin County Commissioners today granted a delay of one week in the decision to allow a public referendum on the issue. 

Readers should note that I have no opinion on this factious matter; instead, the purpose of my blog is counter Klein's constant drone of half-truths and half-baked opinions.  Most importantly, the purpose of my blog is to get all of the facts out on the table so that readers can make up their own minds about the issues, rather than being told what to believe by a very confused Philip R. Klein.

Most importantly, it seems to me that the citizens of Lumberton do indeed have the right to put the issue of alcohol sales to a public referendum, based on a complete review (pun intended) of the real facts in this case.

Philip R. Klein attempts to divert issue with a personal attack, just as he diverted attention from the public referendum in Nederland, where the citizens voted to take portions of the EDC funding and apply it to municipal roads and bridges.

Burnett, who many rumor could step up to the plate and be a conservative mayor one day - has a strong following. Meaning, Bellow now is on some bad listed. And really big names.

So now we have a young man that either made a silly political mistake - or a death shot to his future. Either way - Bellow has lost any and all credibility to his cause and now lost the media.

It seems to me that there are some in Lumberton who are desperately trying to keep this from coming to a vote.  This issue has already been decided once, but the citizen majority vote was disenfranchised based on technicalities in the way the original election was conducted.

I also find it quite interesting that Philip is apparently obsessed with David Bellow. From one of Klein's polls:

Apparently, only 15 of Philip's 25 readers that week shared his opinion.

Care to debate the real issue, Philip?

Care to debate the real issues, Philip?

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