Council decides against hiring a city administrator

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN
In spite of repeated claims by Mayor Rick Hall over the last six months that a new city administrator would be hired, the Council voted unanimously Monday to hire an assistant administrator instead, sending a clear message that Hall would continue in the management position that has evolved since last May.

Council member Kathy Canady made the motion following a one hour and 19 minute executive session that included discussions of the administrator position as well as other items.

“I’d like to make a motion that we look for a assistant city administrator, but we do some change to the name and it be a chief operating officer,” Canady said in her initial motion, to which Hall responded with a question.

“And who will that person report to?” Hall asked.

“That person would report to the Mayor,” Canady responded.

Hall asked that it also be added to the motion that he and two others be tasked with reviewing all current applications to determine if a fitting candidate could be found before reposting the position.

The Council voted unanimously to support the motion, with the only discussion being a comment from Canady about how this move goes “hand in hand with what we wanted” in relation to expectations set up for the Mayor’s office.

No further information was provided regarding the new job description, and the City has not responded to requests from The Independent for copies of the administrator and assistant administrator job descriptions.

“We’re aligning the position to grow with the City,” Hall told The Independent Wednesday of the Council decision. “Based on the Texas statute, the mayor is over the municipal officers in a general law city, and then the city administrator is over the department heads. That’s the way it will continue to be. This position will also be referred to as a municipal officer and report to the mayor.”

He added that the plan was to align the management of the city more with the rules for a Type A General Law city.

“The more the Council started laying out the guidelines the more we got into how the city as a general law city should be operated based on state law, it didn’t warrant the need for a city administrator at this point. The city administrator is more designated in local government code when cities become home rule, and we’re trying to get everything back following the way the local government code states that the city as a general law city should be operated.”

The state’s Local Government Code, though, is not firm on specifics of how a Type A city must be managed.

According to the Code, Sec. 22.042, “The mayor is the chief executive officer of the municipality” and the code spells out specific duties of the mayor. The code also details how a city may create a city manager form of government through an election (Chapter 25), but adds that, “However, any city can appoint a city manager, city administrator, or other managerial employee, regardless of whether the city has adopted Chapter 25 of the Local Government Code.”

Immediately after accepting Greg Boatright’s resignation last August, Hall said the Council would begin the search for a new administrator.

“We will actively start working (to hire a new administrator),” Hall said on Aug. 12, 2019. “There’s a firm that helps cities place interim city administrators so we don’t drop the ball or lose ground on what we’re doing and that firm will also help us in finding a replacement that suits the needs of the council.”

Since that time, Hall has assumed all management of the City, and has on a number of occasions, told The Independent the hiring process was ongoing, even indicating there had been more than 40 applicants for the position. But since then it has become less clear what will happen with the vacant position.

In October, Hall was temporarily given duties of the City Administrator in what was explained as an administrative fix during the time the City is without a City Administrator.

Matt Powell, who was hired in September to consult on a variety of issues for the City, was working through the vetting process for City Administrator candidates through the Fall, according to Hall.

But repeated requests for updates by Council member Tony DeYoung during meetings since September have been met with promises the issue would be discussed at a future meeting.

The issue was taken up briefly at the January Council retreat in executive session, with the outcome being a vote to allow Hall, Mayor Pro tem Liz Rundzieher and Powell to screen the current applicants.

At its Feb. 10 meeting, the Council took up the city administrator search in executive session, before returning to open session and approving a motion to “direct (consultant) Matt Powell to refine the job description for City Administrator and the position of Assistant City Administrator to bring it back at the next Council meeting for Council to decide a path going forward.”

Prior to that date, no mention had been made publicly of any consideration to hiring an assistant city administrator.

When asked after that meeting how and why the city administrator job description was being reworked and whether an assistant might be hired, Hall responded Feb. 14 by email that, “This needs to hold off until the job descriptions have been review by council and a decision is made in moving forward. Nothing is finalized until the council votes on this and it will be taken up at the next council meeting.”

He declined to answer other questions about how the role of a new city administrator would fit in with his supervisory and day-to-day management duties of the City, as well as how the Council could justify three salaries in management positions should they hire an administrator and assistant.

“There is nothing to answer until the Council takes up a vote to determine if the city will hire a City administrator, an Assistant City Administrator or both and the reason for their decisions. Sorry if you feel like this does not answer your questions but until the council makes a decision it is all hypothetical,” he responded in a second email.

Charter committee set
Including the seven names put forward to serve on the City Charter Committee by Hall at the January Council retreat, the City received six additional volunteers seeking a place on the committee.

Monday, the Council decided to add three to the original proposed list, keeping all seven of Hall’s recommendations and expanding the committee.

“What we discussed was having somewhere between seven and nine for this committee,” Hall said. “We have a total number of 13 that have put in for it.”

Consultant Matt Powell said a committee of 10 could be effective and function well.

The final 10 named to the committee are the original seven nominees: Larry Allman, Kathy Canady, Bill Chapman, Daniel Duckworth, John Johnston, Liz Rundzieher and Kim Sanders, with the addition of Whitney Brace, Keeling Neves and Dianne Williams.

The three applicants not selected, due to them not residing in or owning a business within the city limits, were Jennifer Anderson, Mary Lyn Jones and Rudy Ridolfi.

“All of these meetings will be open to the public,” Hall said. “I am very confident that we will advertise very well for these committee meetings we’re having and the committee will be happy to take comments from the public in order for them to make the best decision.”

The plan is for the committee to have a draft charter ready for Council consideration by late July so the final proposed charter can be placed on the November ballot.

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