Although a challenge to the May 5 Farmersville mayoral election results was not settled in court this week, former mayor Diane Piwko decided to withdraw her complaint seeking a new election, clearing the way for Mayor-elect Randy Rice to take the oath of office without a cloud hanging over the vote.Rice was sworn into office at Tuesday, May 22 council meeting.
“Because of her dedication to the city and respect for the taxpayers of Farmersville, Mayor Piwko has chosen to withdraw her contest to the May 5th election,” attorney Nicole Manning said. “Mayor Piwko congratulates Mayor-elect Randy Rice and offers her assistance during the transition.”
Piwko had obtained a temporary restraining order instructing the city to not declare a winner in the election, citing alleged irregularities in the voting process, and named Rice and County Elections Official Bruce Sherbert as defendants. Judge Mark Rusch, 401st State Judicial District, granted the temporary order and was to rule on a permanent injunction Tuesday, May 22.
However, at the hearing this week Rusch disqualified himself from hearing pleadings because state election law bars a judge from hearing an election dispute within his district. Rusch’s district includes all of Collin County.
“The mistake is mine, and mine alone,” the judge declared.
Rusch referred the hearing to Administrative Judge Ray Wheless, 366th Judicial District, to assign the duty to a judge outside Collin and Hunt counties. Farmersville is located mostly in Collin County, but a small portion of the city is in Hunt County.
Wheless was not available to make the assignment Tuesday.
“While we are disappointed in today’s dismissal of the TRO, based not on the merits but rather on an inadvertent failure to transfer or recuse, we sincerely appreciate the patience and professionalism of all involved parties,” Manning said.
In the May 5 mayoral election, Rice received 221 votes and Piwko received 217. Votes were canvassed and certified by the City Council on May 15 and Rice was slated to be sworn into office Tuesday, May 22.
Although the complaint seeking a new election has been withdrawn, materials gathered by Piwko and her legal representative will be turned over to appropriate agencies for additional investigation.
By Joe Reavis • Staff Writer • [email protected]
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