McKinney Mayor George Fuller is pushing a proposal that will allow him and other city officials to hold their seats for three consecutive four-year terms, an increase from the current limit of two consecutive terms.
During a work session on Tuesday, Fuller and the rest of city council discussed holding a charter amendment election this May to extend the term limits for their offices.
The agenda for the work session listed a “potential city charter election” but excluded the purpose of the proposed election.
McKinney residents still got wind of the subject, and several contacted council members to say they opposed extending the city’s term limits.
One opponent spoke during the meeting’s public comments.
Lee Moore said it was “disappointing but not surprising” that the topic was on the agenda as a “blank item, as if you were trying to sneak one past us.”
She said she suspects the push to extend term limits was prompted by last May’s failed airport bond election, “as yet another way to get the commercial airport pushed through by keeping the same folks in office that are supporting the airport.”
Moore is a resident of neighboring Fairview, which is in the flight path of the proposed airport.
“Term limits help prevent any one individual from accumulating massive power,” she added.
Fuller complained about Moore’s “offensive comments” and said the issue “will be in the hands of the voters.”
Mark Houser, a lawyer who has acted as the city’s attorney since 1984, said holding the term-limits election in 2024 will allow current city officials whose second terms expire in 2025 to run again for the same office, assuming McKinney voters approve the proposed charter amendment.
Mayor Fuller was first elected in 2017 and is set to be term-limited out of office in May 2025. The only way for him to seek a third consecutive term as mayor is to change the city charter.
Fuller denied charges from citizens that the proposed change is “self-serving.”
“I have a fan base out there that is trying to make this all about me,” Fuller said. “Everyone I’m thinking of right now, and that fan base I’m referring to, I don’t know any of them that serve or do anything in the community other than sit on the sideline, outside the arena, throwing mud and making the accusations like they do, including the one that was here today.”
“There isn’t a person in this town that knows about this that doesn’t think it’s self serving,” McKinney resident Micah Russian responded on Facebook. “Even those who might be for it know it’s nothing but self serving.”
“If they want to go ahead and do this they in good faith should exclude themselves if they ever want to be taken seriously by any educated voter ever again,” he added.
Houser said on Tuesday that past councils had supported longer terms because “it takes a while for a council member to not only learn this business but also to be effective.”
He noted the city charter was amended in 2011 to extend the term length from three to four years while maintaining the limit of two consecutive terms.
The Dallas Morning News reported that McKinney and other Texas cities were changing their council term lengths “in response to a state law that took effect Sept. 1 and changes the dates for federal runoff elections,” and a city spokeswoman at the time said the change was made “in order to accommodate that Senate bill [SB 100] and only hold elections in odd years.”
Yet Fuller called a citizen’s comment that the term-length change was made to align with state law “ridiculous.”
“I was in a discussion with somebody—I won’t name her by name—but she had said that the charter election, the charter amendment to go from three years to four years, was because it was to put us in alignment with state law,” Fuller said to Houser. “Of course, that’s ridiculous. Incorrect.”
That was a decision just made. There was no state law. There are many, many cities with three-year terms, and that election had nothing to do with state law, state requirements, state anything. It was just a decision made by council, then of course went to the public to decide. Nothing to do with state requirements. Just wanted to clarify that.
“Correct,” Houser agreed.
Houser also agreed with Council Member Michael Jones that under the current rules, he and others could stay in office indefinitely by switching back and forth between different seats, as long as they don’t hold the same seat for more than two consecutive terms.
“There are loopholes already that we haven’t even discussed where somebody like me could stay on city council forever,” said Jones.
“Everyone up here could be on council for the rest of their lives, if they were elected,” Fuller added.
Houser noted that term limit rules in other Texas cities vary widely. He and others also noted that Texas school districts, counties, and state offices have no term limits.
“I don’t see arguments that really support limiting us to just two terms at this point,” said Council Member Geré Feltus. “I think there’s actually far more benefit for us as a community to see more stable leadership moving into the future.”
Council Member Patrick Clouthier said he likes term limits. “I am very uncomfortable with this coming up where it can impact me,” he added.
Bridgette Ann, who publishes the government transparency site McKinney Citizen to Citizen, said if the public really wants city term limits extended, they should collect petition signatures to get it on the ballot organically.
“That way, it won’t look like anyone is being self-serving on the council,” she said.
Houser said a charter amendment election would cost taxpayers about $90,000 if held in either May or November of this year. He said if the council votes to put extended term limits on the ballot, the city would add amendments to any “areas of the charter that are inconsistent with state law.”
The city council is also expected to put a $485 million bond election on the May ballot.
Houser was directed to prepare an agenda item for the council to consider at an upcoming meeting. The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for February 6.
The deadline for the council to call a charter amendment election is February 16.
The election would be held on Saturday, May 4.
McKinney residents can contact city council members to provide feedback on the proposal.