A Plano City Council member is suing the city in an effort to derail the November recall election that could remove him from office for links disparaging Islam that were discovered on his personal Facebook page in February.
The council member, Tom Harrison, on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in the state’s Fifth Court of Appeals alleging the city of Plano recognized a recall petition that failed to meet the number of signatures required by the city charter. Harrison has also requested the court prevent the secretary of state from placing Harrison’s name on the ballot as the parties await the result of the lawsuit.
For a recall petition to trigger an election in Plano, the supporters of the effort must gather a number of valid signatures equal to 30 percent “of the number of votes cast at the regular municipal election of the city,” according to the city charter. Harrison’s lawsuit alleges the city should have used the tally from the 2017 municipal election, rather than the lower turnout numbers registered in the 2015 municipal election.
The city has used the current standard since at least February 2017, when the city added a page to its website explaining its handling of the recall process. But city spokesperson Shannah Hayley said the city secretary’s office has used the standard for even longer.
“We believe this is Plano’s first recall election in recent history,” Hayley wrote in an email. “Council members were threatened with recall when the Plano Tomorrow Plan was adopted in October 2015. Responses from the City Secretary to citizens’ email inquires at that time reflect the City’s requirements for recall petition signatures.”
The council set the recall election date for Nov. 6, 2018, after a group of Plano residents gathered more than 4,400 valid signatures supporting the effort. Harrison’s camp is arguing that if the city used the turnout from the most recent election, instead of the one from his initial election year in 2015, the petition would have needed more than 8,000 signatures to succeed.
The anti-Islam posts surfaced at first in February, when Harrison shared a video that depicted students wearing hijabs while working at their classroom desks with the caption, “share if you think Trump should ban Islam in American schools.” The video spurred a round of public criticism, including from Mayor Harry LaRosiliere and all of Harrison’s fellow council members.
Other posts from 2016 also surfaced on Harrison’s personal Facebook page with links to articles that made politicized statements about black fatherhood and falsely asserted that all present-day slaveowners are Muslim.
Harrison apologized in February for sharing the video, but denied in April that he knowingly shared some of the other posts.