Dallas County commissioners voted 4-1 along party lines Tuesday to spend up to $275,000 fighting the state’s controversial voter ID law. But how equitable that contribution is compared with the amounts other plaintiffs chip in may never be known. The county is one of 15 parties, including the U.S. attorney general’s office, suing Texas over its photo identification requirement. That means Dallas County residents’ local, state and federal taxes are being used on both sides of the legal battle. Tuesday’s legal contract with Brazil & Dunn was the first time the public caught a glimpse of the potential cost of the lawsuit since commissioners narrowly agreed to join it last month. Commissioner Mike Cantrell, the court’s lone Republican, cast the only vote against the legal contract. Democratic Commissioner Elba Garcia voted against the lawsuit in August because potential costs weren’t yet disclosed. But Garcia joined her fellow Democrats on Tuesday and voted to support spending the money. The county will pay up to $275,000 to cover legal expenses that Brazil & Dunn incurs in the suit. It will not have to pay for any legal fees, such as the hours attorneys spend working on the case. If the county and its co-plaintiffs win the lawsuit and their attorneys are awarded legal fees and expenses, the county can recoup its $275,000.
Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Guerra Snelson said the firm would probably spend millions, and she described the $275,000 cap as “peanuts.”
“Maybe to you,” Cantrell said. He questioned how the public is to know that the county isn’t paying more than the other plaintiffs, which include U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth. Snelson said if the plaintiffs win and attorney fees are awarded, the public would be able to “glean” the amounts each party contributed. “I do not know how it would be that the taxpayers could determine, at this time, that if we put in $1 that they put in $1,” Snelson said.
Attorney Chad Dunn said all of the county’s payments will be public but declined to discuss what other plaintiffs will pay.