Williamson County taxpayers who won a lawsuit against Williamson County and the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) have gone back to the judge to request he modify the ruling and give taxpayers greater relief.
“We appreciate that the judge ruled in our favor,” said lead plaintiff Peggy Venable. “But we don’t believe that taxpayers got the justice we deserve.” The judge, in his ruling October 18, stated dues could not be used by TAC to lobby, but if dues revenue is segregated and not used for lobby expenses, the judge said TAC can lobby. At the time, Venable called it a partial victory for taxpayers. “The Texas Association of Counties found a way to circumvent the law and continue to lobby against taxpayer interests, using taxpayer money to do it,” said Venable.
First TAC claimed they didn’t use tax money to lobby, then they claimed they didn’t lobby but only provided legislators with information, then they announced that the organization stopped charging dues to counties as a way circumvent the law…the Texas Association of Counties can’t keep their stories straight. But the law specifies “dues or fees”. Venable and the other plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in 2005 because the county associations were heavily lobbying the legislature.
State law states that counties cannot use general revenue funds to pay dues or fees to an association that works to influence legislation. “County associations are funded with our tax dollars,” said Venable. “And for years they have been flagrantly violating state law by lobbying. To add insult to injury, they have been lobbying against the very taxpayers who fund them.”
Judge Anderson found that TAC can lobby so long is it does not collect dues from counties. Near the end of the lengthy proceedings, TAC revealed that after the judge's initial opinion against TAC, they discontinued charging counties “dues” in 2007 after doing so while lobbying with taxpayer money for decades.
The October 18 ruling did not address the subject of fees paid to TAC by counties. “We view the judge’s ruling as correct but incomplete,” said Venable. “Williamson County taxpayers paid over $509,000 in various dues and fees to TAC from January 2006 to August 2007.”