Council hires Boatright as interim city manager

By SHELLY WILKISON

In a split vote Monday, the Liberty Hill City Council agreed to hire former Williamson County Commissioner Greg Boatright to serve as a temporary city manager through the end of the fiscal year.

Boatright, who will be paid $5,000 per month plus mileage beginning May 1, will have an employment contract through Sept. 30.

The job was not publicly advertised and it is not known whether other applicants were considered. The Council discussed the matter during a two-hour closed session prior to reconvening to vote 2-1 to hire Boatright. Council member Vicki Brewer voted no, and Wendell McLeod and Connie Fuller voted yes. Sammy Pruett was absent Monday. The Mayor has no vote except to break a tie.

The Council authorized the City’s Attorney to create a contract that will outline the terms of Boatright’s employment and the scope of services he will provide.

Boatright’s salary will be paid with funds from the Economic Development Corp., which voted earlier Monday to set aside money for that purpose.

At its meeting April 8, the Council appointed Mrs. Fuller and Mrs. Brewer to work with the City Attorney to draft a job description for a part-time manager. As of press time Wednesday, the Council had not voted on an ordinance to create a position for interim manager and no job description has been approved.

In the past, the City has adopted ordinances creating positions and their job descriptions before hiring employees. Mayor Williamson said Wednesday that the law requires it.

“I haven’t seen a contract or a job description (for Boatright), so what will he do?” the Mayor said, adding that the council is not scheduled to meet again until May 13 and she has no plans to call a special meeting prior to Boatright’s scheduled start date May 1.

The City of Liberty Hill has been without a city manager since the resignation last April of Manuel De La Rosa. Soon after the current Council was seated last May, it voted to eliminate the position of city manager. No ordinance has been passed since that time to reinstate the position.

Since their election last May, the Mayor has been acting as chief executive officer and supervising the daily operations of city government with the assistance of Mrs. Brewer.

For months, the Council has appeared to be stalled on many issues as the hostilities have grown between McLeod and the Mayor. In fact, the Council spent most of Monday’s regular meeting volleying “official” complaints against each other alleging violations of the City’s Code of Ethics and Conduct as well as state law.

However, when the smoke had cleared, no action was taken and it was not clear whether any of the problems had been resolved by airing their differences in public. In each case, the subject of the complaint did not respond publicly to the accusations made against him or her.

Written complaints against McLeod made by Mayor Williamson and Mrs. Brewer, which were read aloud during the public meeting, were obtained by The Independent through an Open Records Request Tuesday.

Mayor Williamson’s written complaint against McLeod included a host of grievances ranging from  interference with city staff to passing along privileged information to the President of the Economic Development Corp. — information she claims was then shared with others illegally.

The complaint does not identify the document or the information that is alleged to have been shared by McLeod with EDC President Frank Spinosa, nor to whom or why Spinosa might have distributed such information.

Calls to Spinosa by The Independent were not returned by press time Wednesday.

Mayor Williamson told The Independent that she was referring to “financial documents that had partial bank account numbers on them.”

In the complaint, the Mayor accuses McLeod of creating a hostile work environment at City Hall.

“There have been occasions that Mr. McLeod has made staff cry,” the Mayor stated.

She said McLeod had cast a vote in March opposing the development of townhomes because he said it might impact a plan to develop a senior living community on property owned by a local real estate broker.

Both developments have applied to the state for housing tax credits. Construction of each project is contingent upon state approval of those credits.

“These actions have got to stop now,” the Mayor continued. “This type of behavior will no longer be tolerated. The disruptions at a public meeting will not be tolerated. If I must, I will have you (McLeod) remove{sic} from the meeting.”

Mrs. Brewer moved that in accordance with the City’s Code of Ethics and Conduct, which includes a procedure for addressing complaints, that the Mayor’s complaint be investigated. However, the motion died for lack of a second.

McLeod told The Independent following the meeting that he chose not to respond in public to the allegations made against him by the Mayor and Mrs. Brewer. He also said he was not provided with copies of the complaints.

Mrs. Brewer’s written complaint against McLeod was dated Oct. 4, 2012. In her complaint, Mrs. Brewer addressed situations that were also included in the Mayor’s complaint. She suggested that McLeod had obtained a document without first submitting an Open Records Request and referenced the Texas Penal Code that prohibits an official from disclosing or using information “to gain a benefit or advantage or with the intent to harm or defraud another.” Mrs. Brewer did not state how McLeod might have used the information for his personal benefit.

There was no discussion regarding Mrs. Brewer’s complaint and no motion was made to take any action.

McLeod’s complaint against Mayor Williamson was set for discussion in executive session, but the Mayor opted to have the issues aired in public meeting.

McLeod read from his written complaint alleging misappropriation of public funds. He said the EDC President was asked to sign a $60 check to pay for office supplies, but the President argued that EDC has no office and didn’t need office supplies.

“I call this misappropriation of funds,” McLeod said.

McLeod also complained about delays in obtaining payment for work that was completed by a vendor studying the feasibility of installing a septic system at City Park. The Council had previously approved the work over the objections of the Mayor and Mrs. Brewer.

McLeod also suggested that the Council should have approved the employment of the individual hired recently as an assistant in the utility department.

The Mayor had no response to the accusations made against her by McLeod and there was no motion to take action.

In other business Monday, the Council voted to approve a zoning change for 104 Kristi Lane to allow the property owner to build a duplex with a conditional use permit. The unanimous vote came after a public hearing in which no one spoke. The zoning change was recommended by a previous vote of the Planning & Zoning Commission.

The Council also:

* Adopted an ordinance that amended the operating budget for the current fiscal year. Mayor Williamson explained that the vote was needed because she failed to read the ordinance at the Council’s April 8 meeting where funds were moved from one line item to another.

* Adopted two ordinances that changed the zoning to C-3 and neighborhood commercial on State Highway 29 property proposed for a senior apartment community.

*  Adopted a resolution creating a Money Market Reserve account for the Economic Development Corp. in the amount of $250,000 at Union State Bank.

* Adopted a resolution supporting the Sculpture Dedication at Lions Foundation Park April 27 in honor of local sculptor John Van Camp.

* Voted 2-1 with McLeod voting no to adopt an ordinance establishing a waiver process to the annexation requirement for city wastewater service. Mayor Williamson said many developers want access to sewer service and are located inside the city’s Wastewater CCN, but are too far away to be annexed into the city. She said each case will be considered individually. McLeod said he was opposed because the requirement was one way to help grow the community.