Friday, July 3, 2015

"Not Forced Into Silence"

V.I.D.A. has been vindicated after the TX Supreme Court denied a request to take on Eduardo Garza's frivolous lawsuit against them.  What is more shameful is that several city officials vouched for the local businessman.  VIDA released a statement:

The Texas Supreme Court, on June 29, 2015, denied Eduardo Garza’s Petition for review in his losing legal battle with Voices in Democratic Action (VIDA) and Dr. Hector Farias. Garza sued VIDA and Dr. Farias, its spokesperson, for defamation as a result of VIDA’s vocal efforts to publicize the “Pay to Play” rules in the City of Laredo’s granting of a 20 year contract to Garza for the operation of refrigerated customs inspection facilities at the Colombia and World Trade Bridges. In denying Garza’s petition on appeal and dismissing his suit, the Supreme Court recognized that the award of public contracts is always a public matter and an issue of public concern, stating its duty to uphold Texas’ “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide open...” even if it “...includes vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on public figures.” 

“Garza and the City certainly had a reason to try to prevent us from exposing their wheeling and dealing, which included campaign contributions, gift, jobs, and favors,” stated Richard Geissler, president of VIDA. “Our continuing investigation shows that Garza has profited handsomely to the tune of $813,764 over the past 2 years of his 20 year lease with the City. Yet, the City netted a mere $90,738 during this time period - less than the interest the City has paid on the $2,100,000 in bonds which it sold to finance the construction of the two facilities that it gifted to Garza for 20 years. At this rate, Garza will earn $8,130,000 over the 20 year term of his lease, money which we taxpayers will pay to balance our budget, while the City will not even recoup its construction costs,” added Geissler.

Garza’s petition for review was an appeal of a decision by the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio, which had dismissed Garza’s suit against VIDA and Dr. Farias on the grounds that it lacked merit and was brought in bad faith for the purpose of impinging on the rights of the membership of VIDA and Dr. Farias to speak and associate freely. “Laredo can only be assured as a result of this ruling by the highest court in Texas that its residents may freely speak their mind when it comes to exposing corruption in our local government. It’s a good day to be a Texan,” stated Ricardo de Anda, Legal Counsel for VIDA. Baldemar Garcia, counsel for Dr. Farias, added, “we are pleased that the Supreme Court held that the people of Laredo may not be forced into silence by those who command power, prestige, or money.” 

VIDA and Dr. Farias prevailed pursuant to Texas’ Anti-SLAPP statute, which protects against lawsuits filed for the purpose of silencing the public’s right to speak freely and to engage their government in the public sphere. The case is now remanded to the 49th District Court in Laredo for hearings on attorneys fees owed by Garza to VIDA and Dr. Farias, and for the imposition of money sanctions against Garza sufficient to deter him from using lawsuits to limit the exercise of free speech. Laredo attorney Adolfo Campero represented Garza. 

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