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City to request Final Judgment in City Hall Case

By Dawn Burleigh

dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com

 

Orange City Council met in closed session on Tuesday in reference to the next step in the City Hall litigations.

Last month, the Texas Court of Appeals for the Ninth District of Texas at Beaumont upheld an appeal in the case the Orange City Council’s approval of a resolution in January 2016 instructing the City Manager to purchase the First Financial Building for City Hall was authorized.

Final Judgment is the written determination of a lawsuit by the judge who presided at trial (or heard a successful motion to dismiss or a stipulation for judgment), which renders (makes) rulings on all issues and completes the case unless it is appealed to a higher court. It is also called a final decree or final decision, according to legal-dictionary.com

Several citizens spoke during citizen’s comments asking the council to not sue Leslie Barras over legal fees.

After the council met for closed session to discuss the legal matters, clarification was asked concerning the matter.

“The city has not filed a lawsuit against Leslie Barras,” a city attorney said. “They sought court costs and fees originally.”

“So at no point did the council file a lawsuit to sue Ms. Barras,” Councilmember Larry Spears Jr. said.

“No,” the city attorney said. “This is to proceed to end the litigations and request for final judgment.”

According to the decision, following the hearing, the trial court, by letter, advised the parties the Comprehensive Master Plan merely guided Council’s decisions regarding the location of the City’s offices, and indicated that the directions in the Plan on locating the offices in the Old Town Center were not mandatory. In a footnote in explanation of the letter, it reads: ‘In this case, the record shows that neither party asked the trial court to make findings to explain the reasons the trial court reached its ruling under Rule 296.’

The Court of Appeals document also reads ‘We note that when a trial court rules on the motion seeking temporary injunctive relief, the trial court has not made a final decision on any of the disputed facts. Instead, the question the trial court addresses in the hearing on such requests is whether a temporary injunction is necessary “to preserve the status quo of the litigation’s subject matter pending a trial on the merits.” Id. In reviewing the trial court’s ruling resolving a request seeking a temporary injunction, the merits of the underlying case are not presented for appellate review, and our review is “strictly limited to determination of whether there has been a clear abuse of discretion by the trial court in granting or denying the interlocutory order.”

The court found no language mandating future Orange City Councils were required to amend the Comprehensive Plan before they could relocate city offices to another area of the city and further conclude that the trial court’s decision that City Council was not required to amend the City Charter in order to lawfully pass the resolution that authorized the City to relocate its offices to 16th Street was also not shown in the hearing to have been unreasonable.

This clears the way for the city to move forward with plans to purchase the First Financial Blank and relocate City Hall to the location. The City of Orange had temporarily halted the purchase of the First Financial Bank Building and the City Hall move pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

In the original negotiations, it was learned the management of First Financial Bank is willing to make a donation of $2,750,000 to lower the price of the property to the $2,000,000.

Orange City Hall houses the Personnel office and Billing and Collection office are located on the first floor of the building. The offices of the City Manager, City Secretary, and Finance Department are located on the second floor.

Orange City Hall, 803 West Green Avenue, was originally the home of E.W. Brown, Jr., a prominent Orange businessman and philanthropist. The City of Orange purchased the building in 1944.

Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is located behind the building.