DeSoto Mayor Pro Temp Selection Process Sparks Controversy

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Dr. Dinah Marks letter

Desoto Residents’ Comment on Latest Mayor Pro Tem Vote

DESOTO – Citizen’s comments took up most of the time at the most recent DeSoto City Council meeting.

Shanitta Cleveland began the comments with a thorough discussion of the May 21 Mayor Pro Tem vote. While she spoke for three minutes and then had her microphone turned off, she had an issue with the recent voting for the city’s Mayor Pro Tem. Cleveland felt, as did others who spoke after her, that Place 5 Dinah Marks had originally won and not current Mayor Pro Tem Letitia Hughes, who is serving her second Mayor Pro Tem term.

She felt the Marks vote, which was originally 4 – 3, was a win for Marks, but then she stated, “There was a second unlawful vote that stripped her of that title. She started to dissent, but” Cleveland said after that current Mayor Pro Tem Letitia Hughes said she did not vote correctly, and the vote started again, this time with Hughes keeping her Pro Tem seat.

“You guys have corruption in the city, and it is going to continue, and it is not going anywhere,” Cleveland said to the mic, which had been silenced as she walked away with no time left to speak.

Rachelle Jones spoke as a concerned citizen, educator and former city employee. She said she has a concern for the city, and she is not happy with the safety in the city and the lack of security.

Bernadine Harrison said she was speaking out because she does not like the way DeSoto is headed.

“Nothing seems to get better in this city other than the fact that everything seems to get more expensive,” Harrison told the city council. She had an issue with the short three minutes residents are allowed to speak at the council meetings and added, “They can talk to you forever when they are out there looking for votes.”

Harrison also brought up the ISD $7 million missing money, “but we can’t take care of the needs of a child who has been molested.”

Harrison went on to add “it is time for change” and she is going to try and make change happen. She said she is starting a website and asks, “We the People, all you need to do is take one day out of your busy day, and I wish the council would remind people regularly you can get this meeting online so we can do something about it.”

Mary Bonaparte, a 34-year DeSoto resident, said she is challenging the city council to do the right thing.

“This is not the city I moved into 34 years ago, this city has declined as you have allowed developers, investors, Airbnb, and rental property owners to run this city down while they make big money on the backs of us taxpayers.”

Bonaparte, too, mentioned the Mayor Pro Tem election and said, “After Marks had given her speech, Mayor Proctor said there was a voting mistake by Hughes.”

So, Marks’ win was taken away and given to Hughes. Bonaparte insisted Marks won the Mayor Pro Tem nomination, adding, “ignorance of the law is no excuse, which is what the judge tells everybody downtown. You cannot start a meeting using Roberts Rules of Order and then change the rules to benefit your own agenda. I am going to ask you to put your differences aside and honor the initial Mayor Pro Tem vote by confirming Councilmember Marks as the new Mayor Pro Tem. And be reminded this city belongs to every citizen in DeSoto and not the nine individuals sitting on this dais. If we, the citizens, must put our differences aside and rally together to get change in DeSoto, that is what we are going to do. I am asking ya’ll to do the right thing.”

Anna Williams, a 33-year resident, said, “I stand before you in shame and disbelief in what our morals have adapted to. We have allowed personal feelings and greed to ruin our once-beautiful community and city. We have allowed investors, developers, and slumlords to disturb the peace of our once-quiet community. We, the residents of DeSoto, say no more. You are putting $10,000 worth of tires on a $1000 city.”

She said the citizens want transparency and changes: “Some may not want this because of your own investments…” no more.

She alluded to city leaders turning a blind eye. ” We are taking our city back,” she said.

She too mentioned the Mayor Pro Tem vote and said, “Shame on what you did to Councilmember Marks regarding the Mayor Pro Tem vote.”

Dr. Marks Publicly Addresses Mayor Pro Tem Vote

Until now, Dr. Marks has not publicly addressed the Mayor Pro Tem vote. However, yesterday she published a letter addressing what happened. This letter was addressed to the City Council, Mayor Proctor, Interim City Manager and the new City Manager as well as the attorney for the City of DeSoto.

“I, Dr. Dinah Marks, DeSoto City Councilmember, Place 5, City of DeSoto, Texas do hereby publicly voice my dissent of the improper handling of the Mayor Pro Tempore selection process held by the City of DeSoto Mayor and City Councilmembers on May 21, 2024, where Roberts Rules of Order, and Council Rules/Policies/ and Procedures were not followed.”

As recent as 2023, Mr. Joe Gorfida, City Council Attorney, provided training to
Councilmembers on Roberts Rules of Order, a parliamentary procedure that establishes a
standard for conducting orderly meetings and group decision-making. Further, an abbreviated version of how-to bring motions, etc. is provided at council workstations for use during regular meetings. On May 21, 2024, Isom Cameron, Interim City Manager, gave clear instructions prior to the vote, including the allowance of voting for oneself and the stipulation that voting would cease upon one candidate receiving a majority vote on the first ballot. Additionally, Joe Gorfida, City Council Attorney and Mayor Rachel L. Proctor reiterated right before the first vote, “You can vote for yourself”. Following the proper procedure, I received the majority vote on the initial ballot. During this Council meeting, I, Dinah Marks, Councilmember- Place 5 |of the DeSoto City Council, City of DeSoto, Texas, was duly elected Mayor Pro Tempore by a majority vote, 4 to 3 on the first ballot. (Yes= Marks, Parker, Hughes, Raphiel) – (No=Proctor, Byrd, Chism).

Despite the procedural clarity and my majority win, Mayor Proctor, not Councilmember Hughes, (per Robert’s Rule of Order), informed Council that Councilmember Hughes had voted incorrectly. Mayor Rachel L. Proctor, under advisement of Joe Gorfida, City Attorney,
proceeded without a formal motion, decided to restart the voting process. During this
impromptu second round, Ms. Hughes voted and subsequently became the Mayor Pro
Tempore.

It is evident that the decision to restart the voting process was not grounded in proper
parliamentary procedure nor the agreed-upon rules for conducting the selection of Mayor Pro Tempore (See Council Policies/Rules/Procedures, Pg 5, Sec B, #3). There was no motion to rescind the initial result, and the decision to invalidate the first ballot was made arbitrarily after my acceptance speech. This ad hoc approach not only disregards established protocol, but also undermines the integrity of the selection process. Given the fact that our attorney provided training to council, this action violating the procedures of Robert Rules, shows bias.

The mere fact that Councilmember Leticia Hughes regretted her initial vote does not justify
overturning a valid election result all because it did not yield one’s desired outcome. On June 18, 2024, an Executive Session was held by the Council; however, no action was taken. This sets a dangerous precedent where outcomes can be arbitrarily changed based on personal preference rather than adherence to established rules. Such actions erode public trust in our governance.

Therefore, I, Dr. Dinah Marks, Councilmember Place 5, assert that the election for Mayor Pro Tempore held on May 21, 2024, was conducted improperly and request that the initial and duly conducted election results be reinstated. This incident highlights the importance of respecting procedural integrity and ensuring that decisions are made transparently and in accordance with established accepted rules. Moving forward, I urge the Mayor and all Councilmembers of the City of DeSoto, DeSoto, Texas, to uphold the principles of fairness to all, not just the councilmembers one agrees, disagree with, likes, or dislikes. Adherence to procedures in all deliberations and selections are worthy of our actions.”

part two of letter

 

 

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