Absence of quorum delays Boatright employment

By SHELLY WILKISON

An attempt by the majority of the City Council to seat an interim city manager was thwarted by the absence of the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem at a special called meeting Monday. 

Mayor Jamie Williamson and Mayor Pro Tem Vicki Brewer did not attend Monday’s special meeting called by Council members Connie Fuller, Wendell McLeod and Sammy Pruett. Because of their absence, there was no quorum present to hold the meeting.

“This is just an example of how the Mayor stonewalls and refuses to cooperate with anything the Council requests,” said Mrs. Fuller. “If it’s not what she wants, she doesn’t do it.”

On the agenda for Monday’s special meeting were several items on which the Mayor and Mrs. Brewer have publicly expressed disapproval. Primary among them was an ordinance creating the position of an interim City Administrator and the adoption of a Scope of Services for Greg Boatright, a former Williamson County Commissioner whom the Council voted to hire as an interim manager at its meeting on April 23.

In April, the Council voted 2-1 to hire Boatright at the rate of $5,000 per month starting May 1 and continuing through September. The vote authorized the City Attorney to prepare a contract outlining the services Boatright would provide. Shortly after that meeting, Mayor Williamson said an ordinance was needed to create the position because the Council had voted in 2012 to abolish it.

Boatright was present for Monday’s meeting that was not called to order after waiting 15 minutes for the Mayor and Mrs. Brewer to arrive.

City Secretary Tammy Kirk told The Independent that Mayor Williamson was at City Hall “for about an hour” on Monday. She sent an email to Mrs. Kirk saying she would not be attending the meeting, but no explanation was given.

Mrs. Kirk said Mrs Brewer was not at City Hall on Monday and Mrs. Kirk was not notified by Mrs. Brewer that she would not be attending the meeting.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Brewer told The Independent via email, “I received notice, by email late in the afternoon on Friday, May 3, that a special meeting had been called.  Unfortunately, I was not consulted as to my availability. Hence, I had previous obligations on Monday.”

When asked whether she was aware that the Mayor would not be in attendance, Mrs. Brewer said, “I was not aware of Mayor Williamson’s intentions for Monday night.”

When asked about her whereabouts on Monday, Mayor Williamson forwarded the email to The Independent that was directed to Mrs. Kirk at 4:22 p.m. May 3.

“I am not available for the special meeting on Monday,” she wrote in that email.

The Mayor did not respond to the newspaper’s question as to why she was not available.

Mrs. Fuller said the three members who called Monday’s meeting attempted to call the special meeting last week, but the meeting was not posted due to a technicality.

“We tried to have a special meeting last week,” Mrs.

Fuller said. “We were told it would be posted then received a letter saying we did not get our agenda items in on time.

“The normal deadline is Wednesday at noon. I had no clue that there was a resolution passed in 2012 that items had to be in by 9 a.m. The City Secretary did not inform me or I could have had items there by 9. Wendell did have his item at 8:30, but it was ignored. So we have tried to have two called meetings and the Mayor has blocked it. She has no regard for any council decisions,” Mrs. Fuller said.

Although there was no meeting Monday, City Attorney Cathy Riedel was in attendance. She said she was not sure how much she would bill the City for her time, however, she was present 30  minutes and spent time preparing for the meeting.

“I normally charge for preparing for the meetings,” she said.

According to information provided in response an Open Records Request, Ms. Riedel charges $175 per hour.

In addition to Mrs. Kirk, City Receptionist Karen Smith and Police Chief Randy Williams were also present Monday.

As the three council members waited for a quorum, the City Attorney answered individual questions regarding the rules for posting meetings and  conflicting language that was discovered between a city ordinance and a resolution adopted later.

On Monday’s agenda was a proposed change in the cut-off time to submit items for a special meeting agenda.

Chief Williams, who said he was speaking as a citizen although he was in uniform on duty, said it appeared that Ms. Riedel was having a meeting with the council although there was no quorum to call a meeting to order.

The suggestion of a possible violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act appeared to rattle the attorney who then refused to continue the conversation.

“I will just talk to you individually,” she said to the council members.

“We knew she (Mayor Williamson) wouldn’t be here, but we didn’t know about Vicki (Brewer),” Mrs. Fuller said.

“I think they’re trying to stymie this (discussion) until after the election,” said McLeod, as the Council waited for a quorum.

“You think?” responded Mrs. Fuller.

On Saturday, city voters go to the polls to decide one contested race for Place 3 where candidates Elizabeth Branigan and Rodney Ingram are vying to fill an open seat formerly held by Byron Tippie who did not seek re-election.

In Places 1 and 5 respectively, Mrs. Fuller and Liz Hannah Rundzieher are running unopposed. Pruett, who currently holds the Place 5 seat did not seek re-election.

In addition to the issue of hiring a city manager, the Council was also scheduled to discuss Monday “the powers and duties of the mayor and curtailing some of those powers and duties.” That item was requested by McLeod.

Mrs. Fuller had requested two additional items be placed on the agenda regarding the reassignment of duties of Receptionist Smith and Mrs. Kirk.

In April, the panel voted to create the position of Treasurer/Investment Officer and appointed Mrs. Kirk to fill it without posting the job or conducting interviews. At the same time, the Council approved the promotion of Mrs. Smith to City Secretary to replace Mrs. Kirk. The City Secretary job was also not posted. Both of those job changes are to take effect June 1.

“My vote on this item was contingent upon the Mayor’s agreement to actively pursue a city manager,” said Mrs. Fuller. “Mayor has not only shamed me and told me how wrong I am to pursue a city manager, but has blocked every atempt.”

Mrs. Fuller said she wants the Council to vote again on the reassignment of duties for Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Kirk.

Also on the special meeting agenda was discussion and possible action on a septic system for City Park. A site evaluation and design prepared by Kevin Moore, a registered sanitarian, was included in the meeting packet.

Also scheduled for discussion was a proposal to give control of the Economic Development Corp.’s checkbook to the EDC Board.

Both the Mayor and Mrs. Brewer have publicly stated their opposition to installing a septic system at the park.

They have also opposed the continued service of EDC President Frank Spinosa, and without the approval of the EDC Board attempted to persuade the Council to authorize the use of EDC funds for water infrastructure.

The Council’s regular meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 13. Members present this week said they intended to add all of the items scheduled for discussion this week to the May 13 agenda.