5th Ward councilman Julio Tavarez has filed a lawsuit against four of his colleagues, the city, and the mayor saying the no confidence measure taken against him last year damaged his reputation among his African-American constituency and the general public.
The lawsuit states the defendants in the case “falsely made several statements that,” Tavarez, “is racist against African-Americans and has a preference for Latino/Hispanic,” according to court filings made on February 10th, 2016.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s shameful,” said council president William McKoy of the lawsuit. “I can’t comprehend it. It’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen in a long time.”
Tavarez’s lawsuit names the city, council members McKoy, Ruby Cotton, Kenneth Morris, and James Staton.
Staton is no longer on the council. It also names mayor Jose Torres. The four council members named in the lawsuit voted in favor of the no confidence measure.
“I think the councilman is well within his rights if he feels he has been aggrieved in some way to seek out any remedies that are available to him,” said Morris.
Morris though added that serving in public office often subjects a person to differing opinions and ridicule by the public as well as peers.
“If I initiated a lawsuit every time someone disagreed with me or I preceived as being ridiculed I’d be in court 90-percent of my time,” said Morris.
The complaint states “no transcript or recording was provided to the council or the public as to the exact words that were allegedly” uttered by Tavarez on Spanish language radio programs.
The statements in the no confidence resolution are “false” including the part about Tavarez having “went on a Spanish broadcast radio to make mischaracterization and misrepresentations of the actions and positions of the members of the municipal council,” reads the lawsuit.
The measure exposed Tavarez to “hatred, contempt, ridicule, and obloquy,” according to the complaint.
Tavarez “suffered loss of his reputation, shame, mortification, and injury to his reputation with” his “African-American constituents and the general public,” reads the complaint.
Tavarez’s lawsuit stems from a battle that took place on the council over whether an African-American or a Latino should be appointed to the deputy clerk post. He wanted to appoint a Latino deputy clerk for the sake of diversity at the leadership of the City Clerk’s Office.
“We thought he would correct his conduct and behavior and move forward, but it seems he hasn’t learned his lesson at all,” said McKoy.
McKoy said the no confidence measure is a mechanism for a body to express displeasure over its leadership. He said the council has done this many times in the past. The council took a no confidence vote against former mayor Jeffery Jones to express its disapproval in the manner in which the chief executive was running the city.
Tavarez, who is representing himself without an attorney, could not be reached for comments on Tuesday morning.