Voters to decide if McKinney City Council member stays in office

McKinney City Council approved an ordinance placing a recall election for La'Shadion Shemwell on the May 2 general election ballot. (Emily Davis/Community Impact Newspaper)
McKinney City Council approved an ordinance placing a recall election for La'Shadion Shemwell on the May 2 general election ballot. (Emily Davis/Community Impact Newspaper)

McKinney City Council approved an ordinance placing a recall election for La'Shadion Shemwell on the May 2 general election ballot. (Emily Davis/Community Impact Newspaper)

McKinney voters will decide in May whether City Council member La’Shadion Shemwell will remain in his District 1 seat or be recalled.

The council voted to add the recall election to the May 2 ballot during a Jan. 21 council meeting.

On the ballot, voters will be asked: “Shall La’Shadion Shemwell be removed from the office of McKinney City Council Member (District 1) by recall?” Voters will be able to indicate whether they are for or against his removal.

“The citizens are in charge of the recall,” City Attorney Mark Houser said.

If the majority of votes cast at the election are against the recall of Shemwell, he shall continue in office for the remainder of his term, which expires in May 2021.

But if the majority of votes are in favor of recalling Shemwell, he will be removed from office, and the council would have the option to fill the vacancy by appointing someone to serve the remained of his unexpired term. If the council does not choose that option, a special election would be called and held on Nov. 3, Houser said.

Shemwell was given five business days to step down from his seat after the petition was found to be valid, as mandated by the city’s charter. He chose to remain in office and face a potential recall.

“I will fight with every breath in my body,” Shemwell said after the petition was presented to council earlier this month. “What is the point of having a First Amendment right to speak if I cannot use it? ... The people voted for me, and I represent the people. ... To my district, you elected me to speak my voice, and that’s what I will do.”

The ballot measure calling for Shemwell’s removal was prompted by a petition signed by more than 3,000 registered McKinney voters—nearly 1,000 more than the 2,125 needed to trigger the recall election process.

Shemwell, who was elected to a four-year term in 2017, said after the Jan. 7 meeting that he would work with a lawyer about possibly filing a lawsuit against the city.

This is the first petition in McKinney’s documented history to trigger a recall election, according to the city.

Signatures were needed from at least 30% of the total number of voters who voted in the last general election to validate the recall petition, according to the city charter. According to the city secretary Empress Drane, 7,082 people voted in the May 4 election.

The validated petition comes less than a year after voters approved two amendments to the city charter. These amendments ultimately made the process to trigger recall elections easier for citizens by decreasing the number of signatures needed and increasing the time frame a petition can be circulated.

The petition began shortly after a series of contentious McKinney City Council meetings in which racially heated conversations dominated. The most notable meeting took place Oct. 15 when Shemwell suggested the city declare an official “Black State of Emergency” in Texas after two black residents were killed in their homes by police officers in other cities during separate incidents.

During the October meeting, Shemwell said: “The state of Texas and its local governments have declared war on black and brown citizens by conspiring to kill, injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate, and to willfully deprive citizens of their constitutional rights while acting under color of law.”

This statement led to a separate ethics complaint filed by a citizen alleging that Shemwell’s statement violated the city’s “code of ethical conduct in that it alleges criminal conduct by local and state officials.”

That complaint is currently under review by a third-party attorney.

It is up to voters to decide whether he stays in his seat. According to the city, registered voters from the entire city are eligible to cast ballots in the recall election.

Early voting runs from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. April 20-25 and from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. April 27-28. Ballots can also be cast from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on election day, May 2.

Find more information on voter registration in Collin County here.

Editor's note: This article was updated to include more information from the city's attorney and to clarify that the council has multiple options for filling a vacancy in the case that Shemwell is recalled.

By Emily Davis
Emily graduated from Sam Houston State University with a degree in multi-platform journalism and a minor in criminal justice in Spring 2018. During her studies, Emily worked as an editor and reporter at The Houstonian, SHSU's local newspaper. Upon graduation, she began an editorial internship at Community Impact Newspaper in DFW, where she was then hired as Community Impact's first McKinney reporter in August 2018.


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