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Ongoing legal dispute in Port Aransas puts taxpayer money at stake

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The city of Port Aransas is in an ongoing legal dispute with a resident related to claims of an illegal recording. The city of Port Aransas is in an ongoing legal dispute with a resident related to claims of an illegal recording.
PORT ARANSAS -

An ongoing legal dispute involving the city of Port Aransas puts taxpayer dollars at stake, and has some people in Port Aransas questioning that city's leadership.

The dispute goes back to this summer, when the City of Port Aransas filed a lawsuit against a resident related to illegal recording. The city's legal fees were paid for with taxpayer dollars. Even though the suit was dropped, a dispute continues, and more taxpayer money is on the line. 

A debate about fire code in Port Aransas developments, that the KRIS 6 Investigates team reported on in July, prompted developer Julie Shodrok to call a meeting with Mayor Charles Bujan. 

Both parties recorded the three hour meeting. After the meeting, Shodrok left her phone in the room. 

"I left the meeting forgetting my cell phone on the floor," she said. 

When she retrieved her phone four minutes later, it had recorded a conversation between the Mayor and City Manager, David Parsons. 

"I was the subject of two minutes and seven seconds of some lewd and disparaging comments," Shodrok said. "This recording was never disseminated to anyone except my attorney.

That recording prompted the city to file a lawsuit against Shodrok. 

"Whether she left it here by accident or on purpose, it does not matter. The fact is is that after she got that conversation recorded, to which she not a party to, she went on the Internet and divulged the fact that she had done it. That is against the law," Mayor Bujan said. 

The  lawsuit was filed by the city attorney, and paid for with taxpayer dollars. When the city dropped the suit, after Hurricane Harvey, a judge also ordered the city to pay Shodrok's $53,000 dollar legal bill. 

The city of Port Aransas plans to appeal up to the Texas Supreme Court level.

"We believe that she broke the law, and we are not going to pay her for breaking the law without going through due process," Mayor Bujan said. 

Whether it's covering Shodrok's legal expenses or paying for ongoing appeals, taxpayers will pick up a legal bill of one quantity or another.

With Shodrok's attorney also questioning the legality of how the lawsuit was filed, pointing to closed door meetings. 66 Port Aransas residents signed a petition this week calling for the removal of Parsons from the City Manager position. 

"Our city manager is the one that has the control over the filing of this lawsuit, and there are many citizens that are concerned that their tax dollars are being spent," Shodrok said. 

The person who started the petition to fire Parsons took it down this morning, due to a conflict of interest with work. 

Even so, the City Manager cannot be removed by a petition. Only a City Council vote can do that, and Mayor Bujan says he stands behind Parsons. 

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