Brewer’s claims disputed after resignation from EDC

By SHELLY WILKISON

Two weeks after an ordinance was adopted prohibiting city council members from serving on city boards and commissions, the Council accepted the resignation of Councilmember Vicki Brewer from the Board of the Economic Development Corp.

Mrs. Brewer, who only attended one of three EDC Board meetings held since her appointment in August, said she was resigning the appointment because “after much consideration, I do not wish to be part of an ineffective group who’s{sic} highest ranking member exhibits unethical behavior in public arenas, specifically ‘flipping off’ a local pastor.”

The accusation, which was disputed by EDC President Frank Spinosa on Tuesday, was submitted to Mayor Jamie Williamson in an email from Mrs. Brewer on Nov. 29. The Mayor read the email publicly on Monday.

Mrs. Brewer told The Independent Tuesday that the incident had occurred at a meeting of the Christian Business Leaders Association. Although she was not in attendance at the meeting Aug. 27 at Atzimba’s Restaurant, she said Spinosa had “flipped off” Pastor Corey Ross of Williamson County Cowboy Church, and attributed the claim to EDC Executive Director/City Manager Greg Boatright.

Boatright, who was the keynote speaker at the CBLA luncheon, said Tuesday that he did not see Spinosa make any such gesture and denied having the conversation with Mrs. Brewer.

When asked about the incident, Spinosa said he did not recall making the gesture, “but if I did it, it was not in anger. Corey and I have never had a cross word. If I did it, we were both laughing and it was in jest.”

Ross did not respond to a request for an interview from The Independent by press time Wednesday.

“I chose to support the local pastor (Ross), who has been very gracious and forgiving in the matter,” Mrs. Brewer said.

Boatright said he left the CBLA meeting after his speech, and has spoken with Ross since that time, but Ross did not mention any problem with Spinosa. The EDC Board contributed $5,000 to the Liberty Hill Pro-Rodeo hosted by the Cowboy Church on Labor Day weekend.

“If something like that had happened, I would think he (Ross) would have mentioned it,” Boatright said.

In an email to The Independent, Mrs. Brewer said Boatright had also suggested that Spinosa “needed to be removed from the EDC. Mr. Boatright stated that Liberty Hill did not need that kind of representation to the business community.”

Boatright said he never made any such suggestion.

“I didn’t have a conversation with her (Mrs. Brewer) about having the Board President removed, nor did I say he had ‘flipped off’ a pastor,” he said, adding that he did not know why Mrs. Brewer would attribute the information to him.

“Frank and the rest of the (EDC) Board is who I answer to. That would be out of line for me to make such a suggestion,” Boatright said. “I didn’t say it.”

Boatright said the City Council decides who serves on its appointed boards and commissions.

“For me to say who should resign is not my role,” he said.

Mrs. Brewer was appointed to the EDC Board in August by a vote of 3-2 with Mrs. Brewer casting the deciding vote for herself.

Mrs. Brewer and Mayor Williamson were strongly opposed to Boatright’s employment earlier this year, and have repeatedly advocated for the removal of Spinosa from the EDC Board.

Mrs. Brewer was not present Nov. 25 when the Council adopted the ordinance prohibiting council members and their spouses from serving on city boards. In making the motion to adopt the ordinance, Councilmember Wendell McLeod said “we need to get other people involved.”

The ordinance contained language that would have allowed Mrs. Brewer to continue serving in the appointed position until her term expired.

After accepting Mrs. Brewer’s resignation from the EDC Board, as well as the resignation of Cathy Cantrell, the Council voted 4-1 with Mrs. Brewer voting no, to appoint Lance Dean to the Board.

Some Council members expressed a desire to see more city residents serving on the seven-member Board. Mayor Williamson said that with the resignation of Mrs. Brewer and a question as to the city residency of member David Wise, there are no city residents currently serving on the panel. She said current members reside within the City’s ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction).

Attorney Art Rodriguez, who first said the Board was not in compliance with a state law that requires 50 percent of its membership reside in the city limits, later corrected his statement when he realized Liberty Hill’s EDC was created as a different type corporation. He clarified that the makeup of the current panel conforms with the law.

“The interests of those living within the city might be different (from those residing outside the city),” said Councilmember Elizabeth Branigan. “People who live here (within the city limits) may not want to see it developed into a commercial area.”

Mrs. Brewer said that in the past, the Council “had qualified people” from within the city to consider for appointments, but rejected those for candidates living outside the city limits.

Among those city residents who previously applied for an appointment to the EDC Board were Mrs. Brewer’s husband and Mayor Williamson’s husband.

“It is time…way past time…to get the ‘old guard’ out of leadership positions in our city,” Mrs. Brewer told The Independent. “We need people off of the City Council, EDC and Planning Zoning who are ineffective, unprofessional, are unwilling to stand up for what is right. We need people who actually live within the two square miles city limits of the city of Liberty Hill to step up and be active in governing our community.  As it stands right now, those who are not actual residents of the city, but reside within the ETJ of Liberty Hill, are controlling the destiny of the 967 citizens of our community. The heads of the advisory boards of the City Council, EDC and P&Z, are telling the Council what to do. Most of them do not reside within the city limits and only have their business interests in mind. However, until the citizens say enough is enough, this will continue to be a way of life in Liberty Hill.”

In another matter relating to appointments, Boatright suggested the Council consider staggering the terms of appointees on the Planning & Zoning Commission as it is unclear when the terms of some members expire. He pointed to an ordinance that Mayor Williamson countered was outdated. Although Boatright said it was the only document on record, the Mayor said the current council had previously adopted an update that dropped the membership of the P&Z from seven to five members. As a result of the confusion, the item was tabled.

In other business Monday, Boatright said the City had received its first payment for retail wastewater services from area municipal utility districts. The check in the amount of $50,060 is the result of agreements negotiated between the City and four MUD’s to provide wasterwater service following the merger of Chisholm Trail Special Utility District with the City of Georgetown.

The Council unanimously approved a proposal to contract with Chisholm Trail/City of Georgetown to provide wastewater billing services to customers outside the city limits. The contract, which will cost the City about $1,740 per month, is a temporary solution as the City considers whether to invest in different billing software.

Following a 25-minute closed session, the Council voted unanimously to name Karen Smith the Assistant to the City Manager and Assistant City Secretary and set her salary to $15.50 per hour.

The Council voted to cancel its regular meeting on Dec. 23 because of the Christmas holidays, and instead agreed to call a special meeting Dec. 16 if it is needed.