The Lead Sept. 29: It was a looong night at Kerrville City Council

Debate about ethics, rules ended up being tabled.


We sat through a doozy of a Kerrville City Council meeting. What probably should have been an hour-long meeting stretched more than two hours on Tuesday night. More on that later.

First off, some notes:

  • YMCA executive director Greg Peschel, who also serves on the Kerrville Independent School District board of trustees, will join us on The Lead Live at 9 a.m. this morning. Musician Konrad Wert will also join us before taking off on his epic 21-day road trip across America on Thursday.
  • An important programming note, Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly will join Delayne Sigerman on Thursday's episode of The Lead Live. Commercial real estate broker Bruce Stracke will also join the conversation about the county's plan to issue debt to pay for new buildings.
  • COVID-19 cases continue to fall across the state of Texas, including in Kerr County. Peterson Health reported 12 new cases on Tuesday, but 17 remained hospitalized — up one from Monday. There are six people in the intensive care unit.
  • We had a terrific conversation on Tuesday with Justin McClure, one of the owners of JAM Radio. We covered a wide range of topics, including the fear of starting your own business. Great conversation with someone dedicated to giving back to the community:
  • Quinnipiac offered grim news for all three of Texas' main gubernatorial candidates — no one likes them. Incumbent Greg Abbott, who has to be the frontrunner, is faced with a 47% disapproval rating. However, 51% said he doesn't deserve a third term. Potential Abbott challengers Beto O'Rourke, the presumptive Democrat challenger, and actor Matthew McConaughey were also viewed unfavorably. Here's the link:
  • Texas' abortion limit bill, also known as the heartbeat bill, is galvanizing people across the state and country. Women's marches are being planned, including in Houston, Austin and Dallas. We hear there may be one in Kerrville. More to come.
  • How about that storm last night? Lots of bark and a little bit of a bite when it came to rainfall. Still, is the anything better than a thunderstorm?
  • We don't know about you, but we've been getting obnoxious emails from real estate website Zillow that say, "people like you like these homes." Our first question is, what do you mean, you people?


Kerrville City Councilwoman Kim Clarkson.

The Kerrville City Council wandered down a line of discussion about rules and ethics that went sideways, upside down and around the corner on Tuesday night.

If there was foreshadowing for what was to come, it came in the form of Councilwoman Kim Clarkson's prayer of serenity.


For weeks, since a grassroots effort to halt the City Council's action to issue debt to pay for a new public safety building, tensions have been brewing between the Council at a level not seen in years. That has manifested into bickering between Clarkson and Councilman Roman Garcia, but that ratcheted up a notch on Tuesday.

It was appropriate that Tuesday's meeting was at the Cailloux Theater.

During a discussion about ethics and governance rules, Garcia argued that a procedural rule about placing items on agendas would inhibit the Council's ability to represent their constituents properly. The implication was that Clarkson wanted to change the rule, so at least two members had to approve an item placed on the agenda outside of the meetings.

"It's restricting the ability for council members to effectively represent their constituents," Garcia said. "You're limiting the voice of them as well. Granted, we can do it at a public meeting that one of the next items we're going to be considering I submitted to the city manager and city secretary requesting Council support."

Garcia explained he was waiting on information from the Texas Municipal League about an item he wanted to talk about and that Clarkson agreed to sponsor the item on the agenda. However, Clarkson wasn't having any more of Garcia's argument.

She tried to interrupt Garcia's monologue, only to be overruled by Mayor Bill Blackburn. When Clarkson was finally granted to her turn to speak, she accused Garcia of changing an item outside of a public meeting.

"I think if we're talking about ethics and transparency, us having conversations in a meeting is very ethical and transparent and putting items on future agendas in other ways to circumvent conversation in the public in front of our constituents and to get items on because we don't know if people will support them or not, and then go behind the scenes, I don't agree with," Clarkson said. "I think if we're talking about ethics and responsibility to our constituents, then what we need to do needs to be done in the public, and not behind the scenes. When we want items on the agenda, we have the means for doing that, and that's through items for future agenda."

At that point, Blackburn attempted to diffuse the escalating situation by motioning to table the discussion. That failed.

Then Garcia made the following arguments:

  • That people who request to speak should always be allowed to speak in meetings.
  • That rule about the specific citation of documents, including making copies available for the rest of the City Council, was too restrictive.
  • Finally, he argued that the City Council should restrict the longheld practice of speakers publicly announcing their addresses before addressing the City Council in a public forum or hearing due to privacy concerns.

When Garcia began to make motions to consider these changes for a vote, Councilwoman Judy Eychner cut him off and argued that the issues were too complex and needed to be brought back in writing.

The Council voted 4-1 to support Eychner's motion, with Garcia casting the dissenting vote.

Earlier, Garcia attempted to clarify a previous attempt to eject Blackburn from a meeting but instead offered an alternative narrative that he was merely trying to highlight the Council's rules, along with state law governing conflict of interest. In the Council's rules, a member who has a conflict of interest must file an affidavit before recusing themselves. In this instance, Blackburn cited a long-term relationship with a pair of homeowners as his reason to abstain from voting.

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