HOUSTON -- Dave Wilson surprised even himself when he won a strange election to take a seat on the Houston Community College Board.
He chuckled about sending out direct mail pieces implying that “an old white guy,” as he called himself, was really black. He never expected to defeat a longtime incumbent African-American trustee in a predominantly black district.
Now, though, the perennial candidate and anti-gay activist -- the proverbial dog who caught the tire – finds himself in court defending his right to stay in office.
“We are contending that he is not a resident of that district and therefore he is not qualified to serve as a trustee,” said Douglas Ray, an assistant county attorney who’s now trying to convince a jury that Wilson’s claim on his office is a sham.
When he filled out the paperwork to run for the community college board, Wilson claimed as his residence a metal, industrial style building that houses his business. A sparsely furnished apartment inside the building has no shower and Wilson admits he didn’t even know until recently whether the stove worked because he never cooked on it.
Other elected officials have repeatedly gotten away with living outside their districts and Texas courts have a history of shrugging it off, but the Harris County Attorney’s Office decided to take a stand in this case and take Wilson to court.
Now the issue is playing out before a jury that must decide the seemingly simple question of where Dave Wilson lives. If jurors reject his contention that he lives in a metal building without bathing facilities, county officials say Wilson will have to leave office.
“I have my own opinion of what it’s about,” Wilson said as he walked into court. “They’re saying it’s about residency.”
Wilson contends the county attorney’s office wants to force him out because he’s an outspoken critic of problems with the community college board.
“I’ve taken a very strong position about all the hanky-panky that’s going on over at the Houston Community College,” Wilson said. “And I’ve been wanting to clean that up over there. And I think they’re afraid of that. And they don’t like my social conservative views on a lot of things.”
As Wilson took the witness stand, the county attorney’s office presented paperwork – including tax records, voter registration forms and lawsuit documents – showing that he’s claimed a variety of addresses as his residence. Ray told jurors Wilson has a history of switching residency claims to suit whatever political office he’s pursuing.
Wilson admitted on the witness stand that he spends weekends at a suburban house a short drive from his business, a home he claims he bought to persuade his estranged wife to move back to Houston. He also admitted that two of his children had also registered to vote from his business address, where Ray pointed out they could vote for their father when he ran for mayor of Houston.
Attorneys expect the case to go to the jury on Friday.