McKinney Real Estate Agent Sues Mayor As Citizen Petition for Shelter-in-Place Orders Grows Quickly

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Is the city of McKinney’s shelter-in-place order unconstitutional? That’s what a McKinney real estate agent alleges in his lawsuit against the city mayor, meanwhile 7,000 residents and growing have signed a Change.org petition asking for more stringent shelter-in-place.

Derek V. Baker, an agent with Keller Williams, (update 3/28: Baker is not an agent with KW McKinney. Both Baker and operating partner Dick Licare mutually agreed to part ways a few weeks ago) filed the temporary restraining order against McKinney Mayor George Fuller, a local home builder. Baker says Fuller is overstepping his authority to enact stricter shelter-in-place guidelines within McKinney city limits that would irrevocably harm Baker’s real estate business and the economy at large.

Fuller had issued an executive order on March 26 that was later passed into ordinance by city council asking all citizens to stay home unless they’re out for essentials or are workers in essential businesses.

Baker argues the city order, which specifically defines essential businesses, is unlawful and does not supersede Collin County Judge Chris Hill’s order that all businesses are considered essential and should stay open, provided they follow state-mandates for social distancing and gatherings of 10 people or less.

Baker’s attorney Jim Pikl writes in the original petition, “Plaintiff is suffering actual harm or risk of punishment if he goes to work because his work (real estate sales) is not considered an “essential” business under Exhibit 3 [The city of McKinney’s order]. By being prohibited from going to work, Plaintiff is suffering irreparable harm in the form of lost business, lost professional contacts, loss of prospective business, and damage to his professional reputation and good will, for which the award of money damages will not provide an adequate or sufficient remedy.”

Real estate is not considered an essential business, though Realtors have asked Gov. Abbott to consider it essential. Title companies, meanwhile, are essential.

District Judge Weighs In

Collin County District Judge Jill Willis granted the temporary restraining order Friday evening, saying she’ll rule whether to overturn the city order Monday morning.

Friday the judge agreed with Baker that the city’s order imposes tougher restrictions, forces more people to stay home, fails to define “gatherings,” and uses an arbitrary description for “essential businesses,” NBC5 reported late Friday.

She also agreed that a McKinney restriction forcing all religious and worship services be provided only by video and teleconference conflicted, too.

If Judge Willis overrules the city order, it may have implications for other city municipalities who’ve issued stay home orders for its residents that vary from its respective county’s orders.

For example, Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney issued a mandatory stay-at-home order for Frisco residents, acknowledging that the city resides in two counties that have defined essential businesses differently.

The City of Frisco on March 25 ruled that it’ll apply Denton County’s specific definition of essential businesses instead of Collin’s.

Texas Governor Leaves Decision to Cities and Counties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said March 22 he would not issue a statewide shelter-in-place order and instead would leave the decision up to city and county leaders.

The mayor of Dallas had already enacted an executive order March 16 after President Trump’ address to citizens, closing all restaurants, bars, gyms, and other non-essential businesses, asking Dallas residents to stay home.

The city of Frisco acted similarly, closing restaurants and non-essential businesses on March 20, at which time the city had six confirmed cases.

Collin County Judge Chris Hill on March 24 issued its own “stay at home” order that asked county citizens who are sick or immuno-compromised to stay home, yet urged businesses to stay open because “all businesses, all jobs, and all workers” are essential to the Collin County economy.

“The intent of this Order is to protect the physical health and well-being of Collin County citizens, to protect the financial health and well-being of Collin County citizens, and to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible while safeguarding the Constitutional liberties of Collin County citizens by utilizing the least restrictive means possible and encouraging the highest level of personal responsibility.”

Collin County Executive Order by Judge Chris Hill, March 24

McKinney Mayor Fuller issued a shelter-in-place order the next day, saying he felt further action was needed in McKinney city limits specifically, which had 11 cases at the time.

“All individuals currently living within McKinney are ordered to shelter at their place of residence. All businesses operating within McKinney, except Essential Businesses as defined in below in this Section 7, are required to cease all activities at facilities located within McKinney. For clarity, businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own residences (i.e. working from home).”

City of McKinney Order, March 26

A Debate Waged on Facebook

Collin County leaders have discussed the issue publicly on Facebook, engaging citizens, who’ve addressed hundreds of comments to County Judge Chris Hill, Mayor Fuller, real estate agent Derek Baker, and the Collin County Government.

Baker first showed his support for Hill’s executive order, posting on Facebook that it is “literally the most prudent, common-sense government directive I have seen thus far, and I am very thankful for the balance and thoughtfulness of this directive.”

The next day, Mayor Fuller told followers on his respective page he agreed with County Judge Hill’s sentiment to preserve physical and resident safety and “to the extent possible, preserve economic health that, at a minimum, provides the opportunity for a family to provide necessary, food, shelter and any medical attention needed.”

“That said, I believe there are further measures that MUST be taken to actually ensure the desired outcomes, specifically as they relate to health, safety and well-being of our residents,” Fuller said.

After Fuller was served with the lawsuit, he wrote on his Facebook page, “I regret that I, as Mayor, and our City staff, will now be diverting energy and resources to defend this lawsuit when there are such greater issues we are dealing with.”

Change.org Petition Growing

The Change.org petition launched by Wade Glover says Collin County’s “guidelines do little to accomplish this goal and increase the confusion for many residents and cities. Judge Hill needs to update his order immediately to align with all of the surrounding counties.” As of 6 p.m. March 29, 7,000 people have signed in support.

The Collin County order differs primarily because it is not a true “Shelter-in-Place” order, as we have seen in Dallas, Tarrant, Denton, and many other neighboring counties.

Judge Hill cited the “financial health and well-being of our local economy” as one of the major reasons for his unique order. No other local county made exceptions for business like Collin County. Instead, most have fines or jail time for violating the Shelter-in-Place measures. They value the physical and mental health of their citizens more than the financial health of the local economy.

While problematic itself, this disparity between Collin County and neighboring counties creates even more problems for cities. For example, Frisco, which is split between Denton and Collin counties, decided Tuesday evening to “use the more detailed definitions as outlined in the Denton County order unless otherwise instructed or ordered by Collin County.”

County officials, specifically Judge Hill and the local Mayors he met with, need to reconvene and update this order immediately to prioritize the health of Collin County residents now and fix the economy later, exactly what other counties in North Texas, states in the US, and countries around the world are doing.”

Wade Glover on Change.org

Parties Named in the Lawsuit

Derek Baker

The plaintiff, Derek V. Baker had a failed bid for McKinney City Council in 2017 in the same election Fuller was elected mayor. Baker is lead agent Realtor of ConservativeMove.com, which helps sell clients’ homes in blue states and buy homes in red states. He served as senior staff to [former] U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, [R-Texas] in his Washington, D.C., office for 10 years and went on to serve then-Congressman Mike Pence and [U.S. Rep.] Jeb Hensarling, [R-Dallas].

Mayor George Fuller

The defendant Fuller is the managing construction partner for Adriatica, a 46-acre mixed-use development in McKinney and other North Texas developments. Fuller has won several National Home Builder Association Awards, including Best Craftsmanship, Best Overall Home, Best Floor Plan, and multiple People’s Choice awards.

Summary of County Cases

Collin County has 118 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 11 a..m. March 28, including 24 in McKinney.

According to Hill, there have been 547 negative COVID-19 tests in Collin County. By that count, Collin County has performed 665 tests as of March 28, up from 125 on March 24. Collin County has an estimated 2018 population of 1 million.

As of March 28, Dallas County has 439 total confirmed cases. Dallas has performed approximately 2,400 tests at two public locations. Dallas has an estimated county population of 2.6 million.

Tarrant County has 128 confirmed cases, among an estimated population of 2 million.

Denton County has 148 confirmed cases and reported its second death today. It has a estimated population of 860,000.

Timeline of COVID-19 Events in North Texas

March 9 The first case of COVID-19 is confirmed in North Texas, a Frisco man in his 30s who traveled to California at the end of February and returned to Collin County at the beginning of March. 

March 13: President Donald Trump declares a national emergency to bolster federal funding for fighting the coronavirus pandemic.  

March 16 President Trump called on Americans to slow the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding social gatherings of 10 people or more, use drive-through, pickup, or delivery options at restaurants, and avoid visiting nursing homes.

That same day, the City of Dallas orders all bars, lounges, taverns, gyms and theaters to close at midnight.

March 17 On St Patrick’s Day, residents were observed crowding into bars and restaurants outside Dallas that were still open and serving dine-in and bar customers.

March 20 Gov. Greg Abbott mandated the president’s recommendations on social gatherings, bars and restaurants, and nursing homes, and recommended closing schools for a short period of time. (PDF)

The same day, Frisco, located in both Collin County and Denton County, put mandates in place restricting social gatherings, eating/drinking in restaurants and bars, and other recommendations by Gov. Abbott and President Trump.

March 24 Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ “stay home, stay safe” order goes into effect, urging citizens to stay home except for essentials and going to work in a essential business as delineated by the county.

March 25 Collin County Judge Chris Hill enacted a “stay home, work safe” order that asked sick and elderly residents to stay home but named all businesses as essential businesses that should remain open. (see Collin County Executive Order PDF)

March 26 The mayor of McKinney enacted a stricter shelter-in-place order within city limits, saying all residents should stay home unless going out for essentials or work at essential businesses. (see city of McKinney order PDF)

March 27 Derek Baker files suit in Collin County District Court.

Judge grants temporary restraining order that keeps Fuller from enforcing McKinney’s shelter-in-place order until Monday, when she’ll rule.

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Shelby Skrhak

Shelby is Associate Editor of CandysDirt.com. She's a journalist and podcaster turned full-time freelance writer based in Plano. She comes to CandysDirt.com after 12 years with SUCCESS magazine as digital content director. After hosting two top-rated iTunes Top 200 podcasts, she launched her own podcast called the Secret to My Success. She's a Lake Highlands native and graduate of UT-Dallas.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Rhonda says

    I wonder if he’s searching for his 15 min of fame. He has his own high end real estate website that looks like it’s starting out. I can’t believe people place so much value on money over lives. And it’s not that young people wouldn’t survive it, but think of how many in the at risk group they would pass it into? I think I’ll drop him a note and ask his point of view. mailto:derekvbaker@gmail.com

  2. Ellen Childress says

    I am grateful to every official who issues a “shelter in place” order, shuts down businesses, and tries to keep this virus from wreaking more havoc. The health of all people is more important than one person’s needs or presumed needs. If all people do not get on board and stay home, a heavier lockdown order will have to be issued enforced by the National Guard. Those who are more worried about their bottom line than how easy it is to infect others even when one has no symptoms at all ( and without tests, this is really a problem ) need to rethink their positions. “Me and my business” before everyone else’s health is not a very strong position.

  3. Heather says

    I sincerely hope that the general public doesn’t think this is the mindset of all realtors out there. We as a professional already have to combat the perception that we only care about ourselves and about getting closings and money. This realtor is furthering that perception instead of thinking about the greater good. He should be ashamed of himself and I hope his real estate business is adversely impacted by people knowing that he really is only concerned with himself.

    • Deborah says

      I second his business hurting adversely. I believe in the end he will lose the war. Plus he has no concern for health care workers!

    • Sue says

      I do, i have had enough run ins with agents as i tried to sell my home. All i got was they run each other over for the commision and so many think we work for them. After this last agent i will never use one again.

  4. Dr. Timothy B. Jones says

    “ ConservativeMove.com, which helps sell clients’ homes in blue states and buy homes in red states.”

    OMG….I’ve now heard it all! Partisan real estate! Who is this self-serving Baker person? His license should be revoked for endangering the public!

    • Andrea says

      What I find ironic is the Bible passage on the Conservative Move website – Proverbs 22:3 The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

      I wonder if the 15 minutes of fame will bring NAR and TREC scrutiny of his FB pages. And, looking at this from a seller’s perspective, would you want people coming into your home right now, possibly from hot spots in California and New York?

      I agree the Collin County order is flawed, but it seems there might be a better and more professional way of handling things. I certainly hope Collin County tightens its language re: what is an essential business. I cannot think of too many situations in which I’d consider residential real estate sales falling into the essential “to life” category.

  5. Robert Thomas says

    Choise your realtor wisely. Baker would not be a wise choice as he will focus on his commission, not your needs.

  6. Asqrdh says

    “By being prohibited from going to work, Plaintiff is suffering irreparable harm in the form of lost business, lost professional contacts, loss of prospective business, and damage to his professional reputation and good will, for which the award of money damages will not provide an adequate or sufficient remedy.”

    Mr. Baker is damaging his business, contacts, prospective business, and professional reputation all by himself. Self-created hardship by the way he chose to speak and act. He chose his new profession in 2013. He chose the risks associated with being self employed in an industry that is being radically changed by people realizing they might or might not need to utilize a traditional brokerage firm. Can you hear the very small violin playing in the background?

    Another thing – the address for Mr. Baker’s Broker (Shinn Real Estate Team) is in Farmersville, TX. And, there are numerous towns in Collin County that have not issued shelter-in-place orders. Temporarily relocating to Farmersville or one of the other towns (I know there are hotel rooms available) would allow him to keep working.

    The following from Mr. Baker’s LinkedIn page says a lot. “Serves as a member of Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s Grassroots Advisory Board (GAB). The GAB serves at the pleasure of the Lt. Governor and has no official capacity. It is a volunteer role in which we advise the Lt. Governor’s office on policy matters as requested.” Haven’t heard the actual interview, but if Mr. Baker’s friend Dan Patrick suggested anything like “he and other grandparents would be willing to risk their health and even lives in order for the United States to get back to work”, Mr. Baker might want to reach out to McKinney seniors and ask them if they are willing to die to keep his commission checks coming. Tone deaf.

  7. Magdalene Berry says

    I would definitely not use him as a realtor.
    He says those that have are mandated to self isolate, apparently he is ignorant to the fact that one can have it for 2 to 8 weeks without showing any symptoms; yet still be contagious and pass it to others. I don’t want to meet with anyone.
    I have cancer so I’m compromised and would possibly die if I contracted it, so for money you want the city to open up and allow people to meet with each other whom could be infected.
    If that’s the case, the schools might as well open back up.
    Apparently, he has an issue with authority and does not take this virus as serious as he should. I would not be meeting with a realtor or anyone right now.
    Also, there are phones, teleconferencing, etc so you can still meet with people and maintain business relationships.

  8. Tootsie Lou says

    When, not if, this nut case becomes ill, I hope he is shoved to the back of the line for hospital care so that those who sacrificing their livelihood in order to quickly shut down this epidemic came be moved forward to receive the health care they require. This is the height of grandstanding ignorance. You cannot pray this away.

    • shay Kennedy says

      I believe he has damaged greatly his business by filing the suit. It speaks volumes on where his heart and loyalties are. To add I just heard that the Mayors daughter tested positive for COVID-19. I plan to email him and other officials as this is totally absurd and wreckless. We are given the opportunity to self shelter as the humane thing to do in care for others lives but can’t unfortunately so many are refusing to. I just don’t understand it especially when it’s not essential you go out.

  9. Melissa says

    All these mean words!

    From homeland security on critical infrastructure…

    https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce

    RESIDENTIAL/SHELTER FACILITIES AND SERVICES

    Workers in dependent care services, in support of workers in other essential products and services.

    Workers who support food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for needy groups and individuals, including in-need populations and COVID-19 responders (including travelling medical staff).

    Workers in animal shelters.

    Workers responsible for the leasing of residential properties to provide individuals and families with ready access to available housing.

    Workers responsible for handling property management, maintenance, and related service calls who can coordinate the response to emergency “at-home” situations requiring immediate attention, as well as facilitate the reception of deliveries, mail, and other necessary services.

    Workers performing housing construction related activities to ensure additional units can be made available to combat the nation’s existing housing supply shortage.

    Workers performing services in support of the elderly and disabled populations who coordinate a variety of services, including health care appointments and activities of daily living.

    Workers supporting the construction of housing, including those supporting government functions related to the building and development process, such as inspections, permitting and plan review services that can be modified to protect the public health, but fundamentally should continue and serve the construction of housing (e.g., allow qualified private third-party inspections in case of government shutdown).

    Course these aren’t rules. No one really needs to take care of all those animals at the pound after all.

    Melissa

  10. Ronald Johnson says

    Clearly this Baker guy only cares about himself and not the community. The good residents of McKinney would do well to run him and others like him out of town.

  11. Michael Schumacher says

    the law suite is probably a PR stunt. If Baker conducts business through email, mobile and virtual tours, there is no spread risk. Title closings are routinely done online. Are not agents licensed by the state, not the city. Perhaps the city can make sure his local office lights are off, but the city really cant stop him. What is really alarming, is why all these people are willing to give up their constitutional rights. These power grabs by local officials cant suspend the bill rights which includes first amendment freedom of association. Can’t agents conduct business AND take all precautions to slow the spread. I didn’t give up my rights.

    • Gloria Burleson says

      Yes, Michael, you are right agents can conduct business and take all precautions and there are many ways to do this. Easy to do closings on-line only if it’s a cash buyer. I don’t think of it as giving up my constitutional right, I think of it as doing my part to help keep people safe and in hope, it helps to stop the spread of this virus.

  12. Asqrdh says

    RE: the CISA comment above for essential businesses – “Workers responsible for the leasing of residential properties to provide individuals and families with ready access to available housing.”

    Derek Baker has only listed 3 for lease propertied in the past 3 years. Conservative Move doesn’t advertise much other than its attempts to get California conservatives to move to Collin County and I haven’t found anything stating Derek Baker is involved in leasing. Where is he advertising for the “essential” service of leasing?

    What is confusing about the particular comment above is that nothing is said relative to there actually being a need for this type of service in the kind of disaster we have now. I could understand leasing being an essential business if another tornado just came through. But, a highly contagious virus when people are being encouraged to stay in their homes won’t have the same essential businesses. How many people are out in North Texas right now looking for a house to lease because of the coronavirus? How can a business be considered essential if the demand for it has actually gone down due to the disaster? What in the heck is so essential about a real estate agent these days anyway?

  13. Gloria Burleson says

    As a realtor my clients come first, I have decided not to show homes or engage in any activity that would put my clients at risk. If I ever thought I was responsible for their possible exposure I couldn’t live with myself. Yes I know if I tell someone I am no longer showing homes they might call another realtor (that’s fine with me). I sleep well at night! We all want this to end soon but we all need to stay on the same page and the sooner we do that hopefully the faster this corona will go away! Keep well, everyone!!!

    • Mike Barnes says

      I hear he is building a new home too. This could be the motivation behind the lawsuit and putting money before the safety of the people of McKinney. Greedy sob.

  14. Patty Hamilton says

    I have a question about the virus, I have to move out of the house now because I my sister is over the sale of my mother house and I have to move out now. And her lawyer brother has called me 4 times now about me to move out and he said that I have only until April 2 to be out of here. I told him that I feel very comfortable about him coming over here because I have asthma and I could get the virus. He said when can you get out of the house. I told him as soon as I can. He didn’t have a care at all. What should I do.

    • mmCandy Evans says

      Well if the house is sold, then you have to move. You need a real estate agent and a mask & gloves. Be safe as you find a new home virtually. And byes, minimize your exposure to others.

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