Council parts ways with Boatright

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Managing Editor
When Liberty Hill City Administrator Greg Boatright emerged from executive session near the end of Monday’s City Council meeting, he sat in the front row of the audience rather than in his spot on the dais.

A few moments later, with no explanation or discussion, the Council voted 3-1 to accept Boatright’s resignation. Council members Liz Rundzieher, who made the motion, Kathy Canady, who seconded the motion, and Steve McIntosh voted for, while Tony DeYoung voted against. Council member Gram Lankford was absent from the meeting.

It was the first time the issue appeared on the Council agenda under executive session, and something DeYoung said he was unaware of prior to seeing the agenda.

“It was a surprise to me for it to be on the agenda,” DeYoung told The Independent.

While there had been regular tension between Mayor Rick Hall and other council members prior to May’s election and the resignation of Council member Ron Rhea in July, the tension between Hall and Boatright was often obvious as well though rarely talked about in meetings.

“Anytime you have change you’re going to have that,” Hall told The Independent of the recent tension. “I’ve spoken with Greg several times and as we’ve mentioned tonight we accepted his resignation and that’s a mutual agreement between us and him to decide to go ahead and break ties between him and the city. He’s in agreement with us and it’s just time for a change.”

Boatright said it was the best decision going forward, but stopped short of saying it was a completely mutual decision between him and the Council.

“It wasn’t my first choice to do this, but it was what’s best for the City,” Boatright said. “We didn’t need for the City to get separated or torn apart by disagreement and having this thing played out in the public eye. The best thing for me, and I think the City of Liberty Hill, was to let the new Council put their pieces in place and take it the direction of the vision they have for the City.”

He said he was not surprised by the decision.

“It was expected,” Boatright said. “They haven’t been happy with me really for a while simply because I think the Mayor is taking a very active role and they see that in their eyes his role is kind of a duplication of what I was doing.”

Hall cited differences in management structure when asked what signaled that time for a change.

The most recent issue was in May when the Council approved increasing Hall’s supervisory authority over City staff, leaving it unclear what supervisory role Boatright had going forward.

Following that decision, Hall said he had discussed the issue with Boatright and the two agreed on the move, but at the time Boatright denied that discussion took place.

“Greg and I had a very lengthy conversation about this specific item, and his comment to me was, ‘Is it something I’m doing wrong?’” Hall said after the meeting June 10. “I said ‘Greg, I’m going to go back to the same conversation we had last year, that if you’re doing your job, you’re doing your job and that’s great.”

Citing his management experience, Hall said in June that he wanted to improve the current situation.

“I told him the reason that I thought this was a good change for the City to build a structure inside the City,” he said. “Greg’s mentioned to me a couple of times, and he’s even said it in Council meetings, that he is not a manager. So with changing this, and the conversation we had today, I want to help – for lack of a better term, teach (Boatright) how to be the manager the city needs him to be. I’ve had 22 years experience with staff management with thousands of employees under me and I’m just trying to create a structure so we have a solid path moving forward.”

Boatright had no comment on the discussion, saying the decision was up to the Council.

“It’s a Council decision, and whatever Council decides,” Boatright said at the time. “Our job as a staff is to carry out the will of the Council, so that’s what we’ll do.”

McIntosh also implied in comments after that meeting that Hall was better suited for the supervisory role.

“We have a Mayor who is here more than the City Administrator at work and I think that’s probably the more appropriate way to deal with that,” he said.

In addition to the question of supervisory authority, Boatright and Hall – and often the Council at the time – had disagreed over how to partner with Liberty Hill ISD on a district police department, how to handle the one-way streets issue downtown, the supervision of Police Chief Maverick Campbell, capital improvement project priorities and the employment of Diversified Planning as a project manager for City projects.

DeYoung explained his vote against the motion to accept Boatright’s resignation Monday by saying he had hoped to continue working with Boatright.

“He’s got years of experience with city administration, city politics and the inner workings of running a city, and my no vote was in the spirit of hoping to be able to work more with him to be able to move the city forward,” he said. “I wish him well in the future and hope the best for him.”

The change in leadership came on the same night the new budget was proposed with a line item for mayor and council salaries that included a new $60,000 expense, which Hall verified after the meeting was for a salary for the mayor and stipends for council members.

Hall said, though, that the City would be searching for a new administrator.

“We will actively start working (to hire a new administrator),” Hall said. “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.”

In September, following his annual evaluation, the Council unanimously extended Boatright’s contract by a year and gave him a 7.5 percent pay raise. He started as City Administrator in May 2013.

“I loved working for the City and I think we brought the City a long ways in the little over six years I was there,” Boatright said. “The City’s in really good shape financially and so this was as close as you can get to a mutual parting of ways.”

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