McKinney City Council Member La’Shadion Shemwell is suing the city in an effort to remain in his District 1 seat.
Shemwell filed a federal lawsuit Jan. 20, the day before McKinney City Council voted to hold a recall election that could potentially remove him from elective office.
The suit seeks to halt the recall process, declare portions of the McKinney City Charter unconstitutional and award unspecified monetary damages and attorney’s fees to Shemwell.
The upcoming election was triggered by a recall petition signed by more than 3,000 registered McKinney voters—nearly 1,000 more than were needed to start a recall process. As mandated by the city charter, following the petition, the city had no choice but to put the potential recall on the May 2 general election ballot.
The recall election 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 by decreasing the number of signatures needed and increasing the time frame a petition during which can be circulated.
Under the city charter, any registered voter in McKinney is allowed to sign a recall petition or vote in a recall election. But Shemwell is one of four council members who represents a district within the city; he was elected only by voters living within that district.
Shemwell, who was elected in 2017, claims the city charter is unconstitutional because it dilutes the votes of District 1 residents by allowing the entire city to vote on his possible recall.
“This is voter suppression 2020,” Shemwell said in a Facebook video posted Jan. 22. “They are taking away the [voices] of 50,000 people in District 1 to vote for who they want to represent them.”
The city charter has required recall elections and petitions to be citywide since 1959, according to McKinney Mayor George Fuller.
"His actions ... do not just impact District 1. They impact every single taxpayer in this city,” said Fuller, who favors recalling Shemwell.
Shemwell’s lawsuit also claims that the recent charter amendments were aimed specifically for his removal, which he said undermines the democratic process in McKinney.
“The city of McKinney contends that they have no choice in the matter; they are mandated by the state of Texas now that a petition has been signed to push forth [with a recall election],” Shemwell said in the Facebook video. “So our only option at this point is to file the federal lawsuit for voter suppression and discrimination and to have a federal judge rule that this is unconstitutional and that the charter needs to be changed to align with the constitution of the United States of America.”
In the video, he said if his suit is unsuccessful, he will run an “all-out, citywide campaign."
The recall petition spells out the reasons behind the effort to remove Shemwell. It claims that he “has not upheld his oath of office, has violated the City Charter, has disregarded the City of McKinney Code of Ethical Conduct [and] has not appeared at meetings and events at which he agreed to represent his constituents.” The recall petition also alleges that Shemwell “made inflammatory statements about residents and staff of the City of McKinney."
Shemwell’s attorney in the federal lawsuit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A hearing on the suit is set for Feb. 4. See the initial complaint here.