Polasek takes gavel as Victoria mayor; 3rd-place finisher plans challenge

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

May 21, 2013 at 12:21 a.m.
Updated May 22, 2013 at 12:22 a.m.

After a week of digesting legalese in the city charter and state election code, Victoria City Council swore in a new mayor Tuesday.

While Paul Polasek ran the meeting after the council unanimously approved him for the office, the dust has not settled for one former mayoral candidate.

"I just want to focus on the issues that matter to all the folks and getting back to work on providing good city services," Polasek said.

Tom Halepaska took the oath for a fourth term representing Super District 6, and Jeff Bauknight took the oath for his first term representing District 3.

The issue with accepting the votes and swearing in the new mayor came from the city charter's requirement that all candidates win by a majority - 50 percent plus 1 vote.

However, Will Armstrong withdrew from the runoff May 13.

Because the charter does not address procedures for when a runoff candidate withdraws, the charter points to the Texas Election Code.

State law says the remaining candidate, Polasek, is considered the winner, and the runoff is not held.

Omar Rachid, who took the third most votes in the May 11 election, clung to the idea that the runoff should continue so the office is held by a majority vote-getter. He wanted Armstrong to be forced back in an election against Polasek.

"I don't want to be in the runoff," Rachid said. "The city charter says somebody must be elected by a majority. ... The runoff must be between Mr. Polasek and Mr. Armstrong."

Rachid said he would file a complaint with the secretary of state if the city does not address the election.

Elections Administrator George Matthews said, "You cannot look at one city charter item and apply it to the entire process."

The charter does not address the mayor withdrawing from the runoff. However, the Texas Election Code does.

Victoria County Criminal District Attorney Steve Tyler said, "The only thing more absurd is the opposite."

If candidates were not given an opportunity to withdraw, you could have "indentured candidates" forced to run against their will.

Councilman Joe Truman continued taking the issue to task against City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz.

"Would a reasonable person have doubt about how to interpret these two documents?" Truman asked.

Gwosdz said, "I would think a reasonable person would rely on the attorney that they have hired to give them an interpretation."

Two open records requests are pending for email and phone records of council members prior to the May 14 meeting.

The deadlines for those requests made by the Advocate are May 29 and June 3.

After Polasek took office, Armstrong bid farewell and left the meeting.

"I am pleased we moved forward," he said. "We are going to continue to grow and prosper, and Victoria will be a place our grandchildren want to live."

He had been mayor the past nine years.

Polasek said he is happy the issue was resolved and the council accepted the election results unanimously.

He said the law had been reviewed, and he is satisfied with the action.

"I think we're OK," Polasek said. "Mr. Rachid is free to do whatever he feels he needs to."

Councilman David Hagan opposed accepting the votes during the May 14 meeting.

He said he needed more time to study the law then joined the unanimous vote Tuesday to accept the ballots.

"I had a chance to have my questions answered," he said. "I didn't have the opportunity to last time."

He said the issue is still "clear as mud."

"This is the single most murky issue I've had to vote on," he said. "This is my best educated guess that this is what we ought to do."



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