Houston city attorney embroiled in equal rights ordinance case resigns

by Joni B. Hannigan, Editorial Staff |
Houston City Attorney David Feldman with Mayor Annise Parker, announcing revisions to the subpoenas in the lawsuit over the equal rights ordinance. | Houston Public Media

HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) – The attorney embroiled in the legal case involving Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the city's equal right's ordinance announced plans Friday, Dec. 19, to resign next month, according to the Houston Chronicle.

David Feldman is said to be a key witness in next month's case involving five pastors who were issued subpoenas by the City of Houston asking them for communication related to the collection of citizen petitions protesting a non-discrimination ordinance as protecting transgender rights.

The case drew national attention earlier this year when local pastors resisted a subpoena demanding their sermons, claiming their religious liberties were being violated. In November nearly 7,000 supporters gathered for the IStandSunday rally at Grace Community Church in Houston with tens of thousands joining a webcast from 800 churches in all 50 states.

Parker, the city's first openly lesbian chief executive, appointed Parker to the city's top legal position more than four years ago.

Feldman admitted in the article he will step down in time to be able to testify at the Jan. 19 court date so as not to put the city's legal department in a position of not being able to serve as counsel.

A key issue is whether the required number of ballots collected to put the matter to voters were valid.

"It's a question of telling the story and nobody is better able to explain what that ordinance really means," Feldman said in the article. "I've been practicing civil rights law for 38 years. Nobody would understand better than I how that kind of case would actually play out."

In his official statement, Feldman said he looked forward to practicing law with his son. His resignation is effective Jan. 16.

In the letter to Mayor Parker, Feldman wrote: "My service as a City Attorney has marked the most interesting and challenging chapter of my legal career, and has afforded me the opportunity to give something back to my community, which I have always wanted to do. I am very proud of what I have been able to accomplish as City Attorney, and prouder still to have been part of your administration -- one that has made our city a better place, both today and tomorrow."

Last year Parker reportedly gave Feldman a 43 percent raise, from $244,192 to $350,000 according to the Chronicle, which says that made Feldman the second highest-paid city attorney in the country, according to the City Controller's office.

"I'd like to think I've set the tone for City Attorney in the future to have a more expansive role," Feldman said, according to the Chronicle. "They're not just caretakers and they're not just supervisors of other lawyers but they have the opportunity to help shape where the city is going."