The saga unfolding in Lake Dallas continues.
Lake Dallas Citizens for Change, a resident-formed political action committee, is seeking the recall of Steve Forgey, Place 3 council member, and the resignations of April Estrada, Place 4 council member, and Mayor Mike McCaleb, whose term expires in May.
To start a petition, the citizens group recently obtained the required 25 signatures from registered voters who voted in the May 9 election and submitted the paperwork Tuesday to City Secretary Joni Vaughn.
The next step is obtaining about 140 signatures from among the more than 4,000 people who voted in the May election to hold a recall election. Once the signatures are obtained and verified, Forgey’s name would go on the ballot in May.
Ruby Benoit, one of the leaders of the PAC, said residents cannot force Estrada and McCaleb to resign.
“But I want them to resign because the citizens are really tired of the way that the city is being managed,” she said.
The political action committee had originally demanded a recall of Andi Nolan, Place 5 council member, but later removed her name from the list.
Forgey couldn’t be reached for comment, but he did respond to the committee’s demands for his resignation via an open letter posted on Facebook.
“You and your group put your money where your mouth is,” Forgey wrote. “And I will resign my council seat. Send $100 Thousand Dollars to the City of Lake Dallas in certified funds in my name.
“This will hopefully cover the legal costs that Julie Mathews is causing the citizens of Lake Dallas,” he added. “[It will also] help cover the costs of an unscheduled election.”
The saga unfolds
The Lake Dallas saga began unfolding when city leaders attempted in early June to remove newly elected council member Julie Mathews from office the day she took her oath of office.
“The decision to remove rather than reprimand or censure Mrs. Mathews was determined to be necessary because of the totality of the circumstances,” city leaders wrote in a June press release. “Mrs. Mathews has, for a period of two years, waged personal and malicious attacks on members of the Lake Dallas government and its administration that were nothing more than calculated lies intended to turn public sentiment against the City in order to aid her bid for an elected office.”
Judge Doug Robison from the 393rd Judicial District Court in Denton County promptly granted Mathews a temporary injunction until she has her day in court. The trial takes place in early next year.
“What we’re experiencing on the dais at Lake Dallas City Hall is a dynamic of persons who do not understand government, including the basic separation of powers outlined in the Constitution,” Mathews later said.
Another page in the saga turned when then-Mayor Tony Marino announced his resignation in early July, just a few weeks after he and the council decided to remove Mathews. Marino didn’t provide reasons as to why he was stepping down.
A week prior to his resignation, residents filled the council chambers on two occasions to demand Marino’s resignation. Marino, however, was nowhere to be found.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike McCaleb assumed the vacant mayoral seat until a new mayor can be elected in May.
“I just want to let you know that I’m committed,” McCaleb told residents at the July 9 council meeting. “We are wounded in this city, and we need to come together. I’m taking a step forward, and I’m asking you to take a step towards me; and let’s get this resolved.”
The next page turned when Lake Dallas Police Chief Nick Ristagno stepped down as city manager. Some residents had called for his removal as city manager after discovering a Texas attorney general document that states that “a city manager may not also serve as the city’s police chief if the city manager has supervisory authority over the chief.”
Ristagno is serving as the interim city manager until the city can find his replacement.
Benoit said Citizens for Change is demanding Estrada’s and McCaleb’s resignations because they both decided to renew Ristagno’s contract in September.
But city leaders pointed out that Ristagno’s contract renewal was simply temporary until they could find his replacement.
“We’re trying to make changes,” said Nolan, the Place 5 council member. “But they can’t be immediate. It takes time.”
CHRISTIAN McPHATE can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter @writerontheedge.