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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Under authority granted to her under Education Code �39.131, Commissioner of Education Shirley Neeley appointed a two-member management team to assess academic and financial problems in the Wilmer-Hutchins Independent School District. The major financial problem was that the district was collecting property taxes at a rate of $1.50 for every $100 of valuation, even though it appeared district voters had defeated a proposal to raise the rate to $1.50 from 90 cents. To honor the 90 cents rate, the district faced a 40 percent cut in funding and a $7 million budget deficit. Among the academic problems was a finding that the district was “academically unacceptable” and evidence of cheating by the elementary schools on state-mandated tests. Based on this information, Neeley appointed a board of managers to exercise the powers and duties of the district’s board of trustees, which was suspended. The BOM included two paid members and three unpaid community members. Neeley also appointed a new district superintendent. The superintendent concluded that, because of the financial problems, the district would not be able to operate for the 2005-2006 school year, a decision the BOM affirmed by vote. The board of trustees appealed the decision through administrative channels, but not through a lawsuit. A group of individuals, however, did sue Neeley for alleged abuse of her authority, for example, saying the BOM should not have been appointed until the district had been “academically unacceptable” for one full year. The group was made up of three former district employees, a trustee-elect to the board of trustees, a taxpayer, and two voters. They sought declaratory relief that Neeley’s actions were invalid, that the BOM lacked authority to close the district down, that the appointed superintendent had not authority and that the board of trustees was the only entity with authority to act for the district. They also sought injunctive relief against the BOM and the appointed superintendent. The defendants filed a plea to the jurisdiction, which the trial court granted, on the ground that the plaintiffs did not have standing. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court notes that although the defendants argued before the trial court that only the board of trustees could contest actions of the BOM, on appeal, they argue that a challenge to the BOM’s authority can only be brought in a quo warrantor proceeding. The court notes that subject to a small number of exceptions, quo warrantor is the exclusive remedy for the public to protect itself against unlawful occupancy of a public office or challenge to the authority of a public officer. The court then agrees with Neeley that the plaintiffs have no standing, then, since their suit challenges the validity and authority of public officers. Even if quo warrantor was not the exclusive remedy, the court rules that the plaintiffs would still lack standing under a traditional analysis. The suit challenges the legitimacy of the BOM, not the BOM’s decision. The three former employees were not directly injured by the BOM’s appointment. Consequently those three plaintiffs did not demonstrate the type of direct, particular injury necessary to show they have standing. The trustee-elect does not have standing, either, despite the plaintiffs’ argument that the Texas Constitution gives him the right to challenge the BOM since its decision prevented him from performing his duties as a trustee. The court finds no authority supporting this argument, nor for their argument that a prospective officeholder has standing to contest the suspension or abolishment of his office. While a taxpayer may sue to enjoin the illegal expenditure of public funds in certain circumstances, he cannot sue to recover amounts already illegally expended. The plaintiffs’ suit does not accuse any of the defendants of expending public funds on an illegal activity; instead they claim that the expenditures the BOM made were made by an “invalid” board. “[The plaintiffs] cite no authority for the proposition that a public officer, performing his duties in good faith, is engaged in illegal activity if his authority is in dispute. . . . Moreover, even if the Commissioner’s appointments were ultimately declared invalid, the actions taken by the BOM and [the superintendent] are not.” Finally, the court declines the plaintiffs’ invitation to extend make an exception to the general rule that a person’s status as a voter, without more, does not confer standing to challenge the lawfulness of governmental actions. Contrary to what the plaintiffs argue, the court says standing should not depend on the status of a defendant, such as Neeley as an appointed, rather than elected official. OPINION:Francis, J.; Wright, O’Neill and Francis, J.J.

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