Tom Harrison sues to cancel Plano recall election spurred by his anti-Islam Facebook posts

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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.

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  1. The only person that spurred this on was our Mayor who ran to every media outlet as fast as legs could carry him. Perfect timing for him as a Plano Citizens and the White House was in an uproar that Our acting mayor acted in a totally unprofessional manner boycotting the infrastructure meeting atvthevawhite House with our President. That trip representing Plano and paid for by our Plano taxes was dismissed by our mayor. He refused to make any apologiy.! He had the gall to go on CNN representing Plano saying bhe boycotted the meeting because of subpoenas being served on sanctuary city mayors. What that has to with his performing his job as our mayor simply eludes me. We are NOT a sanctuary city. Once again he showed poor judgement and a complete lack of respect for our citizens and our tax dollars, add to that,?he is a coward. In his boycott, he stood with Democratic mayors and then said on the CNN interview which political party he was registered with he said in acswalliwed voice that he was a Republican. Really? Are you embarrassed by stating you are a Democrat? Stand up guy! Republicans and Democrats should turn their crack in you.

    This thing with a Harrison is a trumped up circus. He has been a thorn in your side because the man has the guts to ask the hard questions that you and Bruce don’t like to focus on or tell untruthful answers to.. Harrison shines a light on your political shenanigans and wasteful spending and myriad slush funds. Council is NEVER ALLOWED TO ASK BUDGET QUESTIONS BECAUSE HOW DARE THEY SECOND GUESS THE AlMIGHTY CITY MANAGER! WHO GOT SOME FISCSAl AWARD LAST YEAR? They don’t live here. We might have slightly different opinion as the city is extremely non transparent in the money requested and why it is needed now. Who cares about that award? Citizens want to know their nmoney is going to be spent and not be patted on the head like they are imbeciles. All new plagrounf equipment? Really? It ALL needs to becreplaced at once? And then Harry and Bruce say we don’t have unlimited funds so you council members are going to have to choose for new carpeting for athe library, a nbartifucial turf for a stadium that needs leveling, or some other $100,000 items, but you can choose one. The council members look worried. What door should the choose for their $100,000 dollars? Does this seem totally absurd to you? If it doesn’t you haven’t done any research into how much money the city rolls over year after year into slush funds. I’m talking millions of dollars, but let’s make city council make the hard decision on that measly $100,000!and fee like they are making wise fiscal choices. Most of them do not even understand the budget andvthrvquestiinsvtheybprffervtobtgevcity manager are answered in acsnapoybimpatient manner of why are you questioning me?! Gee, Bruce, time to get a fix on reality. You work for us. We pay your overpriced salary. Your job is to make us understand in a calm and reasonable manner. We do not need to have that much money laying around of our tax dollars to get a Triple A bond rating. Check your facts. More scare tactics and BS, and the renewing of the TIF for east Plano, what a rip off for all Plani citizens, poor stewardship on your part and wasteful spending. And the stuff you are accepting to be built there is a time bomb guaranteed to explode in 20 years down the road if not sooner. You are purposely not attracting corporations that pay well to that area. You treat East Plano horribly. You view it as needing dwellings and not jobs. What? You are setting up east Plano with low opportunity jobs at best. East Plano is the prettiest part of Plano and you have no decent vision for it. They want Shops of Legacy, Waters Creek and corpiratevjibs. Your plans include none of these things.. pay attention to your customers desires and needs. They don’t anymore apartments and swished townhomes that always have flight of stairs. No one listens to the great desire people have in Plano of a one story propert with no steps in or out of the abode. Can’t afford the land space forvsungle story? Offer homescwith elevators. Prices have gone way down and they don’t require the super expensive ntrnslvstrucutre in the building of the home. Why isnt staff doing research on this?

    • Clare Phillips

      Actually, my son organized the first small protest at the State of the City before Mayor Harry asked for Harrison’s resignation. It grew organically from there. The recall is about an at-large councilman’s obvious bigotry against a portion of his constituency, not about development plans.

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Daniel Houston
Daniel Houston covers Plano city government, transportation, business and education for Community Impact Newspaper. A Fort Worth native and Baylor University graduate, Daniel reported previously for The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press in Oklahoma City.
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