Brightly colored campaign signs urging residents to “vote for” proposed emergency service districts cover the Pecos City Hall, as part of city officials’ effort to ensure the passage of this measure for the May 2019 election ballot. Taxpayers are crying foul, saying the city’s electioneering violates state law.

The measure was put forward by the Reeves County Commissioners Court, reportedly with the understanding that the City of Pecos would obtain the necessary petition signatures from residents and organize the campaign for its passage.

The proposal would establish five emergency service districts across Reeves County to provide fire and ambulance services. The districts would be funded with a portion of the county property taxes.

According to a video posted by the city on its Facebook page, a petition of 100 signatures from residents had to be submitted to the commissioners court in order for the court to place the initiative on the ballot. The city then collected petition signatures at city hall or, if they called and requested so, a city official would take a petition to residents.

The city has now launched a political campaign in support of the measure, letting voters know they can pick up campaign signs in support of the initiative at city hall.

Texas Scorecard spoke with City Manager Seth Sorensen, who stated the city had not organized a political action committee to fund the campaign efforts. Sorensen did not clarify who paid for the signs or whether they were paid for out of city resources. The campaign signs lack any of the statutorily mandated political advertising disclaimers to indicate who paid for the signs or the required Transportation Code notice.

The Texas Election Code prohibits the use of public funds by a political subdivision for political advertising. The code also stipulates that communications that could reasonably be likely to influence a voter are also prohibited. Some taxpayers are now crying foul and questioning whether the city’s involvement in the campaign is unlawful, considering the city’s efforts to promote the ballot measure.

Matt Stringer

Matthew Stringer is from Odessa, TX and serves as a West Texas Correspondent for Texas Scorecard.