Pasadena Mayor Jeff Wagner on Friday asked the City Council to settle a voting rights lawsuit that led to national portrayals of the Houston suburb as an example of efforts to suppress Latino voting rights. The proposed settlement with Latino residents who sued the city in 2014 over a new City Council district system calls for the city to pay $900,000 for the plaintiffs’ legal fees and $197,341 for court costs. The item will be on Tuesday’s City Council agenda. “While I strongly believe that the city did not violate the Voting Rights Act or adopt a discriminatory election system,” Wagner said in a statement, “I think it’s in the best interest of the city to get this suit behind us.”
C. Robert Health, who represented the city a protracted battle in federal court, agreed that if the council votes for the settlement, it’s in the city’s best interest. However, he argued in court and he still believes that the city did not intentionally discriminate against Latino voters, even though Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal determined it did.
“We felt we had a good case and we had not discriminated,” he said. “The system operated in such a way that I don’t think it produced or diminished Hispanic representation.”
Patricia Gonzales, one of a handful of voters who filed the lawsuit through the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund prompted by drastic infrastructure inequities across the city, said she was thrilled to hear the news. But she was not surprised.