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Goodwin wins suit against Bee Cave Council

Wednesday, June 30, 2021 by Jo Clifton

Bee Cave’s mayor and City Council members acted illegally last year when they voted to remove one of their members – Bill Goodwin – from the Council, according to a ruling from Travis County District Judge Lora Livingston.

Livingston ruled in a final judgment against Mayor Kara King, Council members Andrea Willott, Jon Cobb, Andrew Clark and Kevin Hight, and the city of Bee Cave, that the Council’s June 2020 vote to oust Goodwin was done “without legal authority under the Bee Cave Charter.” As a result, “all actions taken by the City Council in reliance on (Goodwin’s) removal from office are likewise void,” according to the judgment.

Those actions include calling an election to replace Goodwin and swearing in Courtney Hohl for the seat Goodwin had previously held.

In addition to the suit against Bee Cave and the other Council members, Goodwin has separately filed suit against Hohl, alleging she was never legally elected to his seat and has no authority to vote on matters before Council. Attorney Bill Aleshire, who represents Goodwin, told the Austin Monitor Monday that his client is awaiting a judgment from the 3rd Court of Appeals on his lawsuit against Hohl. Briefs were filed in that case last December, he said.

Aleshire said of the Bee Cave Council, “They exceeded their authority in the worst possible way and stole an election.”

Scott Tschirhart, an attorney representing Bee Cave, did not return a call requesting comment.

As the Monitor reported last June, Goodwin was removed by his fellow Council members after pushing the city manager to hold an in-person meeting rather than an online meeting in March 2020 when most jurisdictions had started avoiding meeting in person because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Goodwin was acting mayor at the time. Goodwin subsequently apologized for his actions and resigned on April 1. However, he was reelected without opposition in May 2020 and was starting a new term when his fellow Council members voted to remove him. Since the actions for which they removed him happened during his previous term of office, the removal appears to be effectively a lifetime ban.

Aleshire explained that the District Court clerk had already issued the injunction ordering the defendants “to desist and refrain from committing or continuing to commit acts in violation of the injunction.” In the meantime, Aleshire said Bee Cave’s attorney had filed an interlocutory appeal to try to prevent the judgment from taking effect. Aleshire said he believes the defendants do not have a right to that type of appeal.

Aleshire said Goodwin frequently votes in opposition to positions taken by other members of the Council and is a strong advocate for the environment.

Bee Cave City Council has a meeting scheduled for July 13. Aleshire said his client is still assessing his options related to the meeting.

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