Council blocks attempt to appoint Mayor’s husband to EDC Board

By SHELLY WILKISON

An attempt to appoint the Mayor’s husband to a city committee was blocked by the majority of the City Council on Jan. 25 when the motion died for lack of support.

Mayor Pro Tem Vicki Brewer made the motion to appoint Monroe Williamson to the Board of Directors of the City’s Economic Development Corp. Mrs. Brewer identified Williamson, husband of Mayor Jamie Williamson, as owner of The Leader. The publication cites his wife as its owner.

Along with Monroe Williamson, Mrs. Brewer suggested the appointment of Teri Moore, owner of a local bookkeeping company that has a contract with the City for accounting services.

Council member Wendell McLeod said Moore’s service would be a conflict of interest because she is  paid by the City to keep its finances.

“I don’t see how that’s a conflict of interest,” responded Mrs. Brewer.

“Are you going to vote for your husband?” McLeod asked Mayor Williamson. The Mayor has no vote except to break a tie.

Mayor Williamson did not respond to McLeod’s question, but she did refer to the EDC Bylaws that she said required Board members to reside within the City.

However, the Bylaws state that if qualified applicants are not available from within the city, appointees may be chosen from the school district or the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ).

“Each Director shall meet the following qualification: Reside within the corporate city limits of the City of Liberty Hill, Texas. If the City Council is unable to find qualified director(s) that reside within the City, it may seek and appoint a director(s) that resides within the City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. If the City is unable to find qualified director(s) that reside within the City or within the City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, the City may seek and appoint a director(s) that resides within the boundaries of the Liberty Hill Independent School District,” the Bylaws state. “The City Council shall consider an individual’s experience, accomplishments, and educational background in appointing members to the Board to ensure that the interests and concerns of all segments of the community are considered.”

All current members of the EDC Board reside outside the city but within the Liberty Hill school district.

Both the Mayor, Mrs. Brewer and McLeod attended a special meeting of the EDC Board Jan. 23, which was called for the purpose of recommending two people to fill open seats on the panel. The City Council agreed Jan. 14 to allow the Board to recommend its own replacements for members who had previously resigned.

McLeod asked the Mayor why she did not tell the EDC Board last week that it needed to fill the open seats with city residents. Mayor Williamson did not answer the question.

“Is this going to override what the EDC has done?” asked Council member Connie Fuller, to which there was no response.

Mrs. Fuller said she would support a council member serving in a non-voting position on the EDC Board, an idea suggested last week by EDC President Frank Spinosa. Previously, the Mayor had suggested the Council appoint Mrs. Brewer to an open seat, but the majority of the Council disagreed.

When Mrs. Brewer’s motion to appoint the Mayor’s husband and the City’s bookkeeper failed to get a second, McLeod made a new motion to appoint local real estate broker Shane White and Jack Harkrider, a former city councilman, retired teacher and journalist. Both White and Harkrider were recommended in a unanimous vote by the EDC Board.

The Mayor questioned Harkrider’s ability to serve because he had missed the past two Council meetings where he was scheduled to make a presentation on another issue. However, earlier in the meeting when Harkrider was scheduled to speak, she said that he was not present because he was ill.

Harkrider, who lives inside the city and made an unsuccessful run last May against Mrs. Williamson for Mayor, submitted an application for an appointment to the EDC Board months ago.

The Council voted 3-1 to appoint White and Harkrider, with Mrs. Brewer voting no. Council members Sammy Pruett and Mrs. Fuller along with McLeod voted yes. Mrs. Fuller said she was related to White and offered to abstain, but the attorney said there was no conflict paving the way for her yes vote.

After the Council voted on EDC appointments, McLeod made a motion to adopt the same EDC budget proposal that the Council previously rejected. Mayor Williamson said the EDC Board did not request the item be considered again and told McLeod, “you don’t have the authority to make this recommendation for them.”

McLeod, whose motion failed for lack of a second, said he had informed President Frank Spinosa that he intended to raise the issue again.

“This is not an agenda item requested by the EDC Board nor is it (the budget proposal) correct,” said the Mayor.

Spinosa and another representative of the EDC Board were present Monday, but had to leave the meeting before the topic was addressed. The Council met in closed session Monday for two hours and 20 minutes, and several people who had waited as long as two hours had to leave before for officials reconvened in public meeting.

Mrs. Fuller suggested the Council hold a workshop with the EDC Board to discuss the particulars of the budget request, which was previously rejected by the Council.

Also Monday, the Council took no action on a proposal by the Mayor to turn Russell, Ford and Purser streets into one-way streets.

The Mayor first proposed the idea two weeks ago suggesting the action was needed to make the streets more accessible to emergency vehicles.

Pruett said in the past two weeks he had visited personally with the residents who would be impacted by the change, and those he spoke to were opposed.

“The people are not in favor of it,” Pruett said.

“We need to start growing up and becoming a city and we’ve got to start somewhere,” said Mayor Williamson.

On the executive session agenda was an item relating to the “conduct” of McLeod. No action was taken on the matter when the Council reconvened. The Council also did not act on “TCEQ Violations,” an item that was not explained in public.

Actions taken resulting from executive session include acceptance of performance evaluations for Municipal Court Administrator Lollie Chavera and Utility Superintendent Brian Kirk. Both earned high marks, but did not receive a pay raise.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Jim Dillon referenced the Jan. 9 arrest of Council member Byron Tippie and called on him to resign.

Tippie, who was not present Monday, was charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor — a Class A misdemeanor –  resulting from an incident that an arrest affidavit states occurred Dec. 20, 2012.

“As a councilman, he (Tippie) is in a position of trust and responsibility and leadership with the churches and schools. A cloud of suspicion remains and it needs to be cleared up tonight,” Dillon said. “We have a councilman accused of a serious crime who has failed to present a strong denial or a vehement defense of the charges. If he (Tippie) does not resign, I expect the City Council to remove him or you are accessories to it.”

As of press time Wednesday, Tippie has not resigned from the Council.

Tippie has not returned phone calls or emails from The Independent.

Also during public comments, Estes Major asked the Council to consider making a change to an ordinance that would allow for the sale of fresh produce from public property.