Two candidates for Conroe City Council may be booted off the May 4 ballot after their applications were challenged because they were not properly notarized.

The city secretary denied the challenges, calling the failure to follow Texas Election Code “standard operating procedure” for Conroe.

The issue will now be decided by a state court.

Conroe Councilman Curt Maddux is running for re-election to Place 2 and faces two opponents, Shana Arthur and Betty Avery. Councilman Todd Yancey is running for mayor of Conroe against Duke Coon and Kristin Wilkinson-Guardino.

Catherine Dominguez, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, challenged the validity of the councilmen’s applications for places on the ballot, alleging that their signatures were notarized without the candidates being present.

Conroe City Secretary Soco Gorjon confirmed the allegation but denied Dominguez’ challenges.

Arthur then asked Gorjon to reconsider the challenge to Maddux.

“I am specifically asking you to reconsider your decision as to Mr. Maddux’s application filed in January as not being notarized and sworn to as required under Section 141.031 of the Texas Election Code,” Arthur wrote to Gorjon, who again denied the challenge.

That section of code requires candidates to sign and swear their applications in person.

In letters to Dominguez and Arthur, Gorjon acknowledged that the city did not follow the election code when processing Maddux’s and Yancey’s applications.

Gorjon said she was “instructed by the elected officials to retrieve their applications from their desk to officially receive them” and was “following standard operating office procedures” when she directed Administrative Assistant Pamela Brown to notarize the councilmen’s applications without them being present.

“The Legal Division of the Secretary of State has confirmed that my office was following standard operating office procedures that had been in place for decades,” wrote Gorjon. “To prevent future complaints, the Secretary of State has recommended that the City of Conroe notarize documents with elected officials as specified in the code rather than City of Conroe’s standard operating procedures that were in place.”

According to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, a notary public “may not notarize a document without the signer being present.” Doing so may subject the notary to criminal and civil penalties and suspension or revocation of the notary’s commission.

The city’s instructions for filling out candidate applications state, “Failure to complete the required information will cause the application to become invalid.”

The candidate filing deadline was February 16.

Candidate challenges may be filed up until 50 days prior to an election—in this case, by March 15.

Earlier this week, Arthur filed a mandamus petition asking a state appeals court to intervene.

She also filed a challenge in state district court. The judge ordered Brown, Gorjon, and City Administrator Gary Scott to give depositions on Thursday. Brown and Gorjon were also ordered to produce documents including Brown’s notary book.

A hearing on Arthur’s request for a temporary injunction is scheduled for Friday morning, March 15, in Montgomery County’s 457th District Court.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.