109 sign petition to keep Boatright as City Manager

By SHELLY WILKISON

Business owners and Liberty Hill residents are signing a petition urging the City Council to keep Greg Boatright employed as City Manager.

Boatright, a former Williamson County Commissioner, was hired by the City of Liberty Hill in May and given an employment contract that expires at the end of September. He was hired as an interim manager and director of the Economic Development Corp. over the objections of Mayor Jamie Williamson and Councilmember Vicki Brewer, who are now proposing a job description for a manager that would effectively eliminate Boatright from consideration as an applicant.

Boatright is currently paid $5,000 per month from EDC funds. The Council is in the process of preparing a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The Mayor’s spending plan, which includes a 5 percent tax increase, does not include funding for a manager’s salary.

Jon Branigan, a local business owner whose mother serves on the City Council, told The Independent on Monday that he will present a petition to the Council  containing the signatures of like-minded business owners who believe the City should keep Boatright. As of press time Wednesday, he said he had 109 signatures on the petition with more promised.

“He (Boatright) has our city’s interests at heart,” Branigan said. “He is a resident of our community and a business owner. There is no reason to get rid of him.”

Branigan said the attempt to write a job description for a manager that includes the requirement that applicants have a license to operate water and wastewater systems is nothing more than a ploy to squeeze out Boatright from future consideration for the position.

Prior to Boatright’s employment, the daily business of the City was overseen by Mayor Williamson and Mrs. Brewer. When Boatright was hired, the Council voted to remove most of the Mayor’s power.

During its meeting August 12, the Council voted 3-2 to write a job description for a manager who would serve in a dual role as public utility director. As an overseer of the water and wastewater systems, the position would require a Class B water and wastewater license. Boatright does not have the license.

“These are two different job descriptions,” Branigan said. “They’re not going to find someone with qualifications for both jobs. It’s two different people.”

In an email sent to members of the Chrisitian Business Leaders Association on Monday, Branigan, who serves as president of the organization, wrote, “There are no city administrators that are public utility directors. Those are two completely different jobs.”

Branigan asked CBLA members to sign the petition, which urges the Council to approve a 12-month employment for Boatright.

“Almost every business owner on (State Highway) 29 has signed the petition,” he said. “Even citizens that don’t live in the city or own a business are asking to have their voices heard. Some are writing letters and others are going to show up to the next city council meeting.”

Branigan said he is urging supporters to attend Monday’s meeting of the Council.

“I am asking everyone who supports our effort to be there so the city can see how many people support our protest,” he said.

Last week, Councilmember Elizabeth Branigan was one of the three members who supported the proposed change in job qualifications that would have eliminated Boatright from future consideration. Jon Branigan said he believed it was important to show his mother and other council members that the business community believes Boatright is serving the city well and should not be replaced.

“Business owners may not have a vote (in city elections), but it is important for the city to see business owners’ views. We pay city property taxes,” he said.

Branigan said he started the petition Monday and within the first 90 minutes of circulating it door to door, he had collected two dozen signatures. Others circulating petitions have seen similar results, he said.

“Most people I talked to don’t want to get rid of him (Boatright). He is well-liked and smart, and is working on some significant projects,” Branigan said.

In the short time he has served as manager, Boatright negotiated a contract with the City of Leander for future water use.

Boatright is also leading a team of council members to update the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Ms. Branigan is serving on that committee along with Mayor Pro Tem Connie Fuller.

Additionally, Boatright is working to prepare the City to become the wastewater  treatment retailer for  area MUDs that previously contracted with Chisholm Trail SUD for the service. The City of Georgetown is in the process of taking over the CTSUD and has expressed to Boatright the probability of relinquishing to Liberty Hill the CTSUD wastewater CCNs it holds for the MUDs. If approved, the City could see a significant increase in revenue if it becomes the retailer to more than 9,000 residences.

“Liberty Hill is poised to grow exponentially and this is not a time to step back and not have a city administrator,” Branigan said.

City Administrator/Public Utility Director

 According to the website of the Texas Municipal League, the association that represents most city governments in Texas including Liberty Hill, there are currently 22 job postings for city manager or city administrator jobs. None of those job descriptions require candidates to have any level of water or sewer operator licensing.

Liberty Hill has had two previous city managers – neither of whom held a water or wastewater license.

Although City Attorney Art Rodriguez said he knew a former city administrator in Alvord who held the additional water licenses, he did not know of any other municipality where the roles were shared by one person.

However, he said finding someone with qualifications to serve in both capacities would not be that uncommon. He said smaller cities would be more likely to utilize one person in both functions.

Mayor Williamson, who said she did not know of another city where the administrator was also serving as public utility director, compared the combination to the dual role being performed by the city administrator in Jonestown.

Manuel De La Rosa formerly served as Liberty Hill’s city manager and now holds the position in Jonestown. Mayor Williamson said De La Rosa at one time also held the job of police chief for Jonestown.

De La Rosa, who is not a law enforcement officer, served as chief in an administrative function as opposed to a licensed law enforcement officer.

“Manny played police chief. Does he know anything about being a police chief?” Mayor Williamson said.

No quorum to call meeting to order

  The issue of the administrator’s job description was on the agenda for Tuesday’s special called meeting, but the absence of two council members prohibited the meeting from being called to order.

Councilmembers Wendell McLeod and Mrs. Fuller did not attend. Mayor Williamson, Mrs. Brewer, Ms. Branigan and Councilmember Liz Rundzieher were present.

Also on the agenda was a budget workshop.

The Mayor was critical of those who did not attend, adding that she had not been notified that they would not be present.

“This was Wendell’s preferred date for this (meeting),” she said.

When contacted by The Independent Wednesday, Mrs. Fuller said she had eye surgery early Wednesday morning. She said she needed the evening before to prepare anticipating that she would not be able to read for several days following the surgery. Mrs. Fuller told the Council last week that she had eye surgery scheduled for Tuesday.

McLeod said he did not attend because he did not agree with the Mayor adding the job description to the agenda. He said he had previously agreed to meet for a budget workshop.

Mayor Williamson said the items that were set to be discussed Tuesday will be on the Council’s regular meeting agenda Monday. The Council meets at 6:30 p.m. August 26 in the Council Chamber.