City Manager Manuel DeLaRosa confirmed Wednesday that Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp. General Manager Wendell McLeod has accepted the terms of an employment agreement with the City and will become its Water Utility Operator effective upon McLeod’s resignation from the City Council.
DeLaRosa told The Independent on Wednesday that he anticipated receiving McLeod’s letter of resignation from the Liberty Hill City Council before week’s end at which time McLeod would sign a three-year employment contract with the City. DeLaRosa said he had also directed the City’s attorney to prepare an employment contract for McLeod’s wife, Maryanne McLeod, who will work in a clerical role for the City’s new Utility Department.
The McLeods are each being offered a three-year contract in accordance with the terms of a transfer agreement, which provides for the merger of the LHWSC assets, operations and certificates of convenience and necessity to the City of Liberty Hill. The transfer agreement was approved by the City of Liberty Hill, the LHWSC and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“As long as he resigns from Council, I’m prepared to offer him a job,” DeLaRosa said.
Final agreed-to changes to the employment contract were being made at press time Wednesday, making it unavailable until it is signed and executed, DeLaRosa said. In fact, he was unsure of McLeod’s salary adding that the transfer agreement called for the McLeods to be paid the same amount they were being paid as employees of the LHWSC. He said the McLeods would be eligible for future pay increases on the anniversary of their hiring dates as is the case with other city employees, and they will also receive the same benefits.
Despite the contract, the McLeods would still be considered at-will employees and may be terminated with cause. However, the contracts will contain a provision that if terminated without cause, the City would be obligated to pay out the remaining salary. He said that provision offers more job protection than other city employees have.
He said McLeod would not receive a vehicle or a vehicle allowance, but would continue to drive the utility truck currently owned by LHWSC. Rather than use the truck as a take-home vehicle as is currently the case, DeLaRosa said the truck would remain parked on City property after hours.
“Basically, what we’re doing here is ratifying the staffing terms contained in the transfer agreement,” DeLaRosa said.
At its meeting June 20, the Council voted to take over the operations of the LHWSC effective immediately, which put in place a contract with Severn Trent to assume the duties for about $3,600 per month. DeLaRosa said McLeod will “coordinate the operational activites with Severn Trent and oversee the work,” while acting as the City Manager’s “direct liaison” with the company.
He said he expects McLeod will be able to perform some duties offered by Severn Trent, which could reduce some costs to the City.
“I believe there will be plenty of work for everyone,” he said, adding that the duties of the Utility Clerk (Mrs. McLeod) will be examined to determine if the position is full-time or part-time.
DeLaRosa said current city staff will oversee the billing processes and finances of the water utlity, and will ensure there are no co-mingling of funds between the water and wastewater functions.
In recent months, members of the LHWSC Board of Directors have questioned McLeod’s business practices pointing to inconsistencies in the collection of past-due water bills, and using water revenue to pay the City for wastewater services.
Although the Board said the move was not meant to be punitive, on June 25, members voted 3-2 to release McLeod from his duties as general manager limiting his responsibility to tasks relating to the smooth transfer of the water system to the City. As a result of problems they perceived in management of the daily operations, the Board voted to turn over all operations of the water supply to the City and will pay up to $5,000 per month for the service. The Council voted unanimously on Monday to act as an operations vendor to the LHWSC until the merger is complete.
DeLaRosa said the vacancy on the Council created by McLeod’s anticipated resignation may be filled by mayoral appointment, which would require a vote of confirmation by the Council. While it is possible that the Mayor and Council could choose to keep the seat vacant until the next election in May 2012, DeLaRosa said he would prefer that it be filled. The Council could also call for a special election, but he said that would be unlikely as there are other options to fill the vacancy.
The person appointed to fill the vacancy would serve out the unexpired term, which expires in May 2013.