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Day before recall vote, Houston mayor will resign

Rindi White

Embattled Houston Mayor Roger Purcell is resigning as mayor effective Monday, one day before residents were scheduled to vote on whether to recall him.

Purcell sent a letter to the Houston City Council saying he is resigning as of Monday night. The letter was read at a council meeting Thursday night. The council accepted his resignation on a 4-2 vote.

Purcell was not at the meeting.

Despite resigning as mayor, Purcell will remain on the City Council for the town of 1,755 residents. The mayor is designated from the council members to serve a one-year term.

Purcell was elected to the City Council in 2007 and has been mayor since a year later. As mayor, he is responsible for day-to-day city operations as well as running council meetings.

Purcell has made rapid changes at the city and pushed for improvements. He also generated a posse of critics. Two recall applications were filed against him this year. One was tossed out because the city clerk said it lacked specifics.

The clerk accepted a second recall application, which claimed Purcell wrongly used emergency lights on a city police vehicle while he and his wife drove to Fairbanks in December to deliver a grant application.

That recall was scheduled for the Tuesday special election ballot. The election now is unlikely to be held.

Purcell's three-year term on the council expires in October. He has said he doesn't plan to run again.

He said this spring that the recall movement saddened him and was unfounded. He believes he's worked hard for the city and hasn't "done anything recallable," he said.

Besides his police vehicle use for the Fairbanks trip, some Houston residents were stirred up in recent months by the city's budget woes that caused cutbacks in the police department; the city's purchase of a used rescue truck, which Purcell drove up from Virginia; and the city's killing of the dogs and cats at the animal shelter because they had been there for several months but hadn't been adopted.

Julia Normand, one of the recall-petition sponsors, said she was surprised to hear Purcell is resigning. "I feel like I've just been chopped off at my knees," she said Thursday night.