Wendell McLeodAlthough presented with the caveat that it was not meant to be “punitive” against General Manager Wendell McLeod, the Board of Directors of the Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp. voted Saturday to limit his job to assisting with the transfer of the water system to the City of Liberty Hill.
In a 3-2 vote during a special called meeting June 25, Director Glenda Gavin offered the motion suggesting the move was intended to “free him (McLeod) up” to negotiate an employment contract with the City to run its newly-created utility department.
“Before Wendell can negotiate with the City, we have to let him go here first,” said Director Jerry Casebolt, who supported the motion along with Director Charles Canady.
Board Chairman Tracy Wiggers and McLeod, who also serves on the supervisory board where he is employed, voted no.
“The reason for this is to allow us to move forward and take steps to transfer this (LHWSC) to the City,” said Casebolt. “This is not punitive.”
McLeod will receive full pay through the month of July, and beginning August 1, his salary will be reduced to $500 per month “pending review.”
After the meeting, McLeod said he did not understand the purpose of the vote or how it changed his job. He said he would report to work as usual on Monday and take care of things just like he normally does.
LHWSC Attorney Richard Hamala said despite the vote, McLeod should “keep doing what he’s doing until someone else is available to do it. Until someone else is there to fix the leaks, Wendell needs to do it.”
“I think more of the people of Liberty Hill than to just leave this place and go to the house,” McLeod said. “But, I’m tempted to throw my keys out there and go.”
McLeod earns about $65,000 annually managing the water supply corporation. His wife works as his administrative assistant. According to the terms of a transfer agreement, which was adopted by both the Liberty Hill City Council, the LHWSC Board and approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the City will negotiate an employment contract with the General Manager and his staff that will begin when the LHWSC assets are finally transferred to the City.
While the issue of McLeod’s compensation and duties was posted on the agenda for June 25, the real purpose of the special meeting was to ratify a vote taken by the Board June 20 to transfer the operations of the LHWSC to the City of Liberty Hill authorizing a monthly expenditure to the City not to exceed $5,000. Attorneys representing the City and the LHWSC agreed that a second vote was needed on the issue because the first time it was addressed the item was not posted as requested by directors on the meeting agenda. Wiggers said he chose not to post the item for the June 20 meeting because “he has a hostile board.” See related story.
The previous vote was ratified June 25 by a 3-2 vote with Wiggers and McLeod voting no as was the case on June 20.
Also Saturday, the Board discussed but took no action on an outstanding past-due account of a property owner whose former tenant failed to pay for water service over a period of 17 months.
McLeod said the property owner, who has attended previous LHWSC Board meetings to protest the billing, owes $646.50.
McLeod said after two months of non-payment, he sent the tenant’s bill to the landlord – a practice permitted by the corporate bylaws. He said although the customer continued to use water and paid nothing on his accumulating balance, he did not attempt to disconnect service to the residence until six months ago when the tenant moved out of the house.
“If the renter doesn’t pay, it falls back on the landlord,” said McLeod, adding that late fees had also been accumulating. Hamala confirmed the policy in the bylaws, adding that it was common practice among water utility companies.
“If we had cut it (water service) off, it (the debt) wouldn’t have gotten so bad,” said Mrs. Gavin. “I feel like we’re at fault because it should have been disconnected.”
Canady added that an individual account should be disconnected after 30 days of non-payment. The bylaws also permit the LHWSC to charge a $30 re-connection fee, he said.
“If I have to send registered letters to everyone (notifying them of pending interruption of service), it will cost a lot of money,” McLeod said.
Noting that the City was about to take over the operations of the water system, the Board decided to take no action on the item and allow the City to resolve the matter.