Saturday, July 26, 2008

TURF files appeal to reinstate lawsuit against TxDOT for its 'Keep Texas Moving' ad campaign

TURF appeals to higher court

July 26, 2008

By Georgia Fisher
New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung
Copyright 2008

Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) filed an appeal Thursday seeking to reinstate its lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation’s Keep Texas Moving ad campaign.

TURF contends the ad campaign is a pro-toll road campaign that violates the state ban on state officials participating in politics and using their authority and public money for political purposes. It wants the Third Court of Appeals to overturn Travis County District Judge Paul Davis’ decision to dismiss the case. The state agency argues that its actions are legal and proper.

“I’m hoping our case will be heard and that the court will find that this is not the appropriate role for a state agency,” said TURF Executive Director and Founder Terri Hall of Spring Branch.

The Keep Texas Moving campaign was active from 2007 to early 2008 and was designed as an informational campaign to educate citizens on proposed transportation projects and improvements, including toll roads.

TURF’s case did not enter the trial phase because TxDOT successfully argued the campaign had to be active for TURF’s case to be heard.

Whether the ad campaign is continuing is a point of contention between TURF and TxDOT. According to TURF, the fact that is still on the Internet is proof the campaign continues. TxDOT says the Website is an information tool available for Texans and provided direction to citizens seeking to publicly comment in town hall meetings on the Interstate 69/Texas Trans Corridor project.

TURF’s first filed a criminal complaint with the Travis County District Attorney’s office last summer against TxDOT’s ad campaign. Hall said when the process was not moving as quickly as TURF would have liked the organization filed a lawsuit against TxDOT in Travis County’s District Court.

“We hope the lawsuit will having a chilling effect on TxDOT and prevent them from continuing with this kind of behavior,” Hall said.

“Thus far, the lawsuit has failed,” said TxDOT spokesman Chris Lippencott. “If another court chooses to review it and ask us questions then we’ll be happy to cooperate, but we’re confident that the district court got it right.

“We do regret that particular people and organizations are using incorrect information, and are being detrimental to a dialogue about solving the state’s transportation needs,” Lippencott said.

TURF is also engaged in a federal lawsuit aimed at stopping the proposed U.S. 281 toll road project. TURF describes itself as a non-profit organization committed to proposing non-toll solutions to Texas’ transportation needs.

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