EDITORIAL: Extended terms, new council salaries create unsavory combination
Congratulations, you have been appointed to what may turn out to be a reasonably lucrative volunteer community service position before long.
Your role is to head a nonprofit board that provides a number of community services, establishing policy and direction for the staff of the organization.
You have a job, but before long you realize that being paid to run this nonprofit is what truly appeals to you. Over time you work to build a board that supports your goals for how this organization should be structured. You remove the day-to-day manager of the organization and convince the board to place those duties in your hands – just temporarily – while you work out the new leadership plan.
But as this reorganization is going on, the board comes up with a plan to compensate you with a full-time salary for all the extra work you are doing, a plan that will also reward the rest of the board members with a small salary as well.
It was a public service, but you’ve earned it, right?
Of course you’ve earned it. In fact, everything is coming together so well, you decide you’d like to be guaranteed that board role a bit longer, so you ask the community to support extending your terms an extra year rather than having to earn the position again every two years. The board approves.
It all makes perfect sense – for you.
But in reality, is that how employment works?
Is that how public service works?
Do we hire people – or elect them – to come in and create their own salaries or contracts?
Three members of the Liberty Hill City Council – Mayor Rick Hall and Council members Kathy Canady and Tony DeYoung – are weeks away from drawing a salary from your taxes. They voted to approve that as part of the budget.
If you approve Proposition 1 — extending Council terms from two years to three years — you will be tacking on another year to their time in office and guaranteeing the three of them a combined $192,000 in personal income over the next three years for what was recently a volunteer public service role.
These three individuals have received a combined 72 votes in City elections. While some part of that is circumstance and voter apathy, the fact remains that there is no voter mandate to justify such rewards.
Both Canady and DeYoung were appointed to the Council and did not draw an opponent for this election. Hall earned 72 votes in his 15-vote victory in 2018. That’s $2,666 in salary per vote cast for the three of them should Hall be reelected and the terms extended.
Does it seem right? Does it seem like public service at its best?
Does it make sense that the Liberty Hill City Council has morphed into a body of salaried individuals with longer terms in office only one election removed from when service on the City Council was considered just that – community service?
At least one current Council member – Liz Rundzieher – has taken it upon herself to purchase signs encouraging voters to support the proposition. It was supposed to be a Political Action Committee, now it’s not, but the signs say it is. Either way, someone who stands to gain financially by the measure she voted to put on the ballot is spending money to implore you to support that measure.
Are you in support of a Council that is trying to work itself into a longer contract and more pay?
If passing a City Charter is so high on the list of tasks to prepare Liberty Hill to be a “grown up” City, then perhaps measures like extended terms and council salaries should be part of that charter rather than sources of immediate job and financial security for the current officeholders.
When you go to the polls, remember that extended term limits are not as simple as whether someone serves one more year. There is a cost to taxpayers in real dollars.
Your City Council has told you the work it does has earned itself a salary. Has it? You might not have a say in the salary of your Council employees, but you can decide how long that contract is good for.