PASADENA, Texas — Leaders of a Houston-area city unanimously approved paying $1.1 million to settle a lawsuit alleging a voting plan adopted in 2013 diluted Latino power at the polls.
The Pasadena City Council on Tuesday approved the settlement with some Latino residents represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Pasadena will pay the group’s legal fees and drop appeals in the settlement recommended by Mayor Jeff Wagner, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Wagner was elected in June, after U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal ruled in January that Pasadena intentionally violated the voting rights of its growing Hispanic and Latino population in redistricting. Then-Mayor Johnny Isbell backed a voter-approved plan that replaced eight single-member City Council districts with six single-member and two at-large districts. Rosenthal ordered Pasadena to return to eight single-member districts and be under federal oversight through June 2023.
“We are very pleased to reach a resolution of the case that will allow Pasadena to move forward with a fair election system,” said Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund attorney Nina Perales. “And, we appreciate the efforts of Mayor Wagner to bring about the settlement.”
Councilman Cody Ray Wheeler said that after years of litigation and $3.5 million in legal fees, he was glad to see the appeals end. The lawsuit gave Pasadena “a black eye in the national spotlight. It cost us progress and it cost us time,” Wheeler said.
Isbell, who was barred from seeking re-election due to term limits, opposed ending the appeals.
“I think it’s a mistake to settle it because I think we stood a good chance to have won the case on appeal and we would not have had to pay the $1.1 million settlement,” Isbell said. “And, I certainly disagree with the judge that said we were trying to inhibit the voting rights of the Hispanic population. That is absolutely, categorically, not true.”
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com