Council keeps May 2 election date

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The Liberty Hill City Council voted unanimously Monday to move forward with the May 2 city election.

The decision came on the same night that Liberty Hill ISD decided to postpone its election, and went against the growing trend in Williamson County as cities and school districts are making the decision to postpone or appear poised to do so.

“We’re going to go ahead with the election May 2 unless it is deemed unable to do so by the Governor,” Mayor Rick Hall said. “I think about every one of the Council members had a comment about this. They’re just wanting to get things completed and done. With this election we’ve got several items on here, then we also have the charter item on in November, and their concern is the stuff on the local level will get lost in the big mix. They made the decision to just go ahead and do it as planned.”

When asked if he had any concerns regarding public health in the decision to go on with the election, Hall said the situation would be monitored.

“At this time we will continue the course for the May 2 unless anything changes that prevents this or the COVID-19 virus is at a larger risk,” he said. “This is being discussed and any updates we will advise you.”

The two items slated for the City election are the Mayoral race between Hall and challenger Liz Branigan, and a measure asking voters to determine the length of council terms, either extending them to three years or keeping them at the current two years.

Following the election and swearing in of the new Council, the winner of the Mayoral contest, as well as Council members Kathy Canady and Tony DeYoung – who did not draw an opponent in May – will be paid a monthly salary. The Mayor’s salary is $40,000 per year and Council members’ salary is $12,000. Council positions do not draw the salary until they next come up for election.

The salary was approved as part of the current budget, passed by the Council in September 2019.

The City has estimated the cost of holding the May election outside the November General Election date to be about $20,000.

Gov. Greg Abbott gave city and school districts the option to postpone their May 2 elections until Nov. 3 with a proclamation March 18.

Williamson County said it will not be supporting local elections in May, instead, using those resources elsewhere.

“I can’t tell you what the cities may or may not do, and I can’t tell you what the Governor may or may not do about the May elections, I’m just telling you today we’re solving the problems with the resources we have,” said County Judge Bill Gravell.

Gravell touched on what he said demonstrated the flexibility of county and other local officials, pointing to the temporary reassignment of some of the staff and re-purposing of much of the equipment in the County Elections Department.

“Our Elections Administrator, Chris Davis, is currently been moved out of that office and he is operating a call center,” he said. “His Deputy Director has moved to be part of the PIO team and their staff is continuing to do their work even though they’re not open to the public. All of our laptops that were used at voting locations have now been wiped clean and transitioned to be used in our health department and other urgent areas.”

On March 20, Abbott postponed the May 26 Primary Runoff Election to July 14.

The cities of Taylor and Cedar Park, and Round Rock ISD have already voted to postpone their elections until November. Georgetown and Hutto councils are voting on the issue this week, and the Round Rock City Council will consider it April 9. Neither the City of Leander or Leander ISD had an election scheduled for May.

Legal representation

Following the meeting’s executive session, the Council voted to dissolve the professional services agreement with the Bojorquez Law Firm, then made a second motion to hire Tad Cleaves as the City’s full-time legal counsel.

“It’s time that the City has our in-house counsel,” Hall said. “Effective April 27 or before – no later than April 27 – he will be our in-house legal counsel.”

Cleaves has served as counsel for the City of Liberty Hill as an associate attorney with the Bojorquez firm since last summer, replacing former Bojorquez firm attorney Dottie Palumbo.

An item on the executive session portion of the June 10, 2019, Council agenda called for the consideration of “continuation of legal services, including city council evaluation of legal team’s performance, review of duties, and discussion of preferred attorney-client communications.”

No action was taken on the item in open session, but following that meeting Cleaves replaced Palumbo as the Bojorquez representative at Council meetings.

“This was a cost savings decision that the city has made and Tad has been doing a great job for the city and is the best choice for the move we are making,” Hall said.

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