Hernandez Case Is Not Over — Integrity Of The Legal System Is Under Attack
It seems that various elected officials want the Victor Hernandez case to go away, and they're doing what they can to make that happen.
I first reported about Hernandez's unpaid property taxes January 31, and filed several more stories that same week. Then, for more than two months there was little news, as the city council referred the case to District Attorney Matt Powell, who considered whether or not to refer the case to a judge. The judge presumably would decide whether Hernandez had forfeited his position on the council.
However. Powell decided not to refer the case to a judge, and based on comments from several elected officials, it seems the case is over, and Hernandez will continue in office.
There's one major problem. The uncertainty about whether Hernandez is eligible to remain in office still exists.
To the best of my knowledge, the major facts that I reported on in January and February remain undisputed. When Hernandez ran for office and took the oath of office, he owed taxes to the city. Under those circumstances, according to the city charter, Hernandez had automatically forfeited his position, leaving a vacancy that would have to be filled in a special election. Although there have been questions about whether the city charter was unconstitutional, no judge has declared it to be unconstitutional. Therefore, from a legal point of view, the charter is still presumed to be constitutional.
Since those basic facts are undisputed, an important question remains. Why hasn't the part of the charter that clearly states that a council member forfeits his position if he is indebted to the city been enforced?
This case isn't over until one of three things happens: Hernandez resigns, Hernandez is removed from office by an official who has the authority to do that (presumably a judge), or a judge rules the city charter is unconstitutional.
At this point, none of those events has taken place, which, in my opinion, means this case is unresolved.
Why is it important that the case have a final resolution? Until that happens, each vote cast by Hernandez is of dubious legality. As this uncertainty continues, more and more dubious votes are being cast. The problem doesn't go away. The problem gets bigger and bigger. The integrity of the system dwindles.
The refusal of officials at city hall and the courthouse to follow through until this is resolved one way or the other can be described in two words -- BAD GOVERNMENT, and it is as big a scandal as the actions of Hernandez, because the integrity of the legal system is under attack.