Risner verdict stands; Court rejects appeal
The state Supreme Court will not hear the case of Judge George Risner against the Harris County Republican Party, despite a last-minute appeal from the defendents.
Risner, a Democrat, filed the initial lawsuit in January, alleging the Republican Party violated election code by allowing candidate Leonila Olivares-Salazar on its primary ballot for the Precinct 2, Place 2 position after being notified her application included hundreds of fraudulent signatures, which were needed in lieu of a filing fee.
In April, visiting Judge Robert Burgess offered a cure in the case by giving Olivares-Salazar a second opportunity to collect valid signatures, declaring she was not directly responsible for the mishap, as she had hired a third party to circulate the petitions.
To date, four individuals have been indicted on charges related to the case.
Last week, the First Court of Appeals, composed of three Republicans, reversed the trial court’s decision, citing preceding cases in which it was determined the candidate bears the ultimate responsibility for filing a proper application.
“And, although Salazar was unaware of the untruthful statements contained in her petitions, she is responsible for the contents of her application,” Justice Evelyn Keyes wrote in the court’s decision.
Olivares-Salazar’s campaign took to Facebook to voice its reaction.
“Despite what you may have read in articles published in the Houston Chronicle and the South Belt-Ellington Leader, this campaign is still going full force,” a message posted to the campaign’s page stated Friday, Sept. 5. “#TeamLeonila is still allowed to campaign and accept contributions. The Court of Appeals may have overturned the trial court’s decision, but the court case is now being appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.”
Records show an appeal was filed that same day.
The following business day on Monday, Sept. 8, the high court, composed entirely of nine Republican justices, announced it will not hear the case.
Throughout the ordeal, no one, including Risner, ever alleged that Olivares-Salazar had forged the signatures in question.
Work continues on the long-awaited project to reconstruct South Shaver Street from the Gulf Freeway to State Highway 3/Old Galveston Road.
In the works for roughly four decades, the undertaking involves widening the area thoroughfare from a four-lane undivided roadway with open ditches to a six-lane divided roadway with raised median, curb and gutter drainage, sidewalks, street lighting and improved underground utilities.
The project also includes widening 1/2 mile of Berry Bayou and building a 13.2-acre detention basin north of South Shaver Street.
The endeavor is a joint venture involving the Texas Department of Transportation, the City of Houston and the Harris County Flood Control District. The estimated cost of construction is $13.5 million – 80 percent of which will be funded by the Federal Highway Administration and 20 percent of which will be funded by the City of Houston.
Work began on the project this past June. To minimize traffic congestion, lane closures occur only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
At press time, work was 70 percent complete.
Storm sewer boxes have been placed along South Shaver up to its intersection with North Broadway, with the remaining boxes expected to be placed during the month of September, weather permitting.
Water lines are also expected to be tested, connected and put into service during the month of September. North Broadway, which has been closed to traffic to accommodate the construction, is expected to reopen by the end of September.
Wald Road, which runs adjacent to South Shaver, is scheduled to be closed in the coming months to allow for the installation of new storm sewer and water lines, in addition to pavement replacement. Concrete paving on the northbound side of South Shaver between Old Galveston Road and North Broadway will proceed until the end of September when it is expected to be completed.
Overall completion of the project is targeted for the first quarter of 2015.
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