Good morning, Kerr County!
Well, after a high of 82 (depending on where you live), we're headed back to winter. The ickiest part of the National Weather Service forecast — freezing rain. Yup. There is a chance of freezing rain Wednesday and Thursday nights. Fun. And the weekend is starting to look stormy as well.
On today's The Lead Live
Fitch Estate Sales owner and champion Rachel Fitch joins us for our regular Wednesday show. It's always fun to talk with her about the pawnshops and the estate sales. She's threatening to bring some items with her today. Join us at 9 a.m.
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Some quick-hit headlines
- Former Kerr County Precinct 2 Commissioner Tom Moser sent an email out saying he was endorsing Sonya Hooten to fill the role he vacated last year. It's the second big endorsement for Hooten, who also has the backing of former Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer.
- Two more Kerr County residents have died from COVID-19, with the virus now claiming the lives of 10 people in February. Read more here:
Tell us what you think!
The Lead is surveying public sentiment around the proposed public safety complex building — expected to cost $45 million. The voters will decide a general obligation bond to pay for the 69,000 square foot building on May 7.
Things to do today!
Read to a Therapy Dog
Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library
Information: To register, please call the library reference desk at (830) 258-1274.
Reading to a therapy dog has been shown to increase children's confidence in reading by providing kids a relaxing and calm environment to practice their skills. The Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library is excited to partner with Graham Bishop and his canine partner, Victoria, to provide this opportunity at the library.
A stormy night at the Kerrville City Council
Kerrville City Attorney Mike Hayes was a focal point of a discussion about City Council agendas, personnel matters and executive sessions.
Kerrville City Councilman Roman Garcia took one verbal punch after another on Tuesday night, drawing out months of City Council tensions into the open.
Garcia's attempt to deal with a long-simmering feud with City Attorney Mike Hayes exploded in public on Tuesday. Even Garcia's attempts to deflect criticism of an agenda item that appeared that he wanted to discipline Hayes backfired.
Criticized by speakers, Garcia faced attacks from his City Council colleagues, who accused the first-term councilmember of lacking transparency in his actions.
The heart of the disagreement stems from a Nov. 9 off-the-record incident between the two men during a City Council meeting break. During that meeting, Garcia delivered a speech that seemed to question the legality of the city's decision to hold municipal elections in May rather than November.
During a break in that Nov. 9 meeting, Hayes approached the dais, telling Garcia that he didn't appreciate accusations of the city operating illegally. Garcia told Hayes he needed to remember his employer.
Garcia described Hayes' behavior as unprofessional and insubordinate. Then, Garcia accused Hayes of altering his agenda item, which called for an executive session discussion about Hayes's Nov. 9 conduct.
Roman Garcia's letter requesting a personnel matter discussion about the city attorney.
The Texas Government Code about personnel matters.
Garcia filed a request, backed by Mayor Bill Blackburn, that said the following: "Personnel matters regarding the City Attorney. (This item is eligible for executive session pursuant to Section 551.074 of the Texas Government Code)."
When Hayes saw the agenda item last week, he argued that the language was vague and needed to reflect the broader scope of the code. One of Tuesday's revelations is that Garcia does not engage in one-on-one meetings with either City Manager E.A. Hoppe or Hayes. Without greater context, Hayes said he relied on the actual government code to craft the agenda item: "Personnel matters regarding City Attorney, as to the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal or to hear a complaint or charge against, as requested by Councilmember Garcia."
However, Garcia criticized this move during a statement before public comments.
"First of all, I was surprised when I saw the agenda item that is before us this evening, as I'm sure some of you were," Garcia said. "Let me start off by saying that my request was, with the support from Mayor Blackburn, and agenda item titled 'personnel matters regarding the city attorney,' and in parentheses items eligible for executive section pursuant to section 551.074 of the Texas government code.
"Let me be clear this item is not presented as I requested as the item titled would have you believe. We can all agree these two items are completely different. We all know the importance of the title of an agenda item and the one on the agenda is completely different than the one I requested. Soon after the agenda was posted, I spoke with the city manager over the phone and requested the agenda be modified to correct the title. I was informed one: that the title would not be corrected to reflect my agenda item as requested; and two, that the city manager relied on the city attorney's office, who stated it needed to be worded differently.
"Since then, there has been word around the city that I'm attempting to do many things. Things, such as, to reassign the city attorney, change his duties or even dismiss him. That is not the case. So, when I say I was surprised by this, it's because this item was written by the city attorney — not me. It was altered without my knowledge, prior to it being posted."
When City Councilwoman Kim Clarkson questioned Hayes about the vague agenda item, he said it put the city at legal risk.
"If we would have kept it the way Council Member Garcia wanted it, I would have told you that there was a risk," Hayes said.
Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn was caught in the middle of Tuesday night's tense meeting.
Caught in the middle was Blackburn, who supported Garcia's move to address the feud in executive session. However, the agenda wording brought it out into an open session leading to a 40-minute back-and-forth between supporters of Garcia and Hayes.
"My understanding is that it would be in executive session, not what we've gone through tonight," Blackburn said. "We did follow procedure. If a councilmember comes to me and wants something on the agenda, and I sign off on that then it goes on the agenda."
Blackburn did offer one critically important point about the law and Hayes' role in interpreting it.
"He must let us know what the law says, not what we want it to say," Blackburn said.
Clarkson said Garcia's decision to ask for the agenda addition lacked transparency because Garcia should have requested it during the Feb. 8 meeting.
"I find this is a distraction, at best, and worst it's an attempt to undermine the credibility of our city attorney," Clarkson said. "Why? That I'm not sure. I really don't know the motivation behind it."
And then it was Councilwomen Judy Eychner and Brenda Hughes' turn to pile on. Eychner suggested Garcia was encouraging non-transparent communications — possibly violating Texas open meeting laws.
"It was just not the right to bring it forward," Eychner said. "It should have been mentioned here."
Hughes said Garcia could have settled this matter with Hayes by engaging in a one-on-one meeting.
"I was blindsided by it and I don't appreciate it," Hughes said.
With the support of former City Councilman and frequently verbose city critic George Baroody, conspicuously absent from Tuesday's meeting, Garcia championed the fight over the election date.
Baroody has framed the election issue as one the city couldn't defend in court because it blatantly violated state law and the city's charter.
The argument has defied logic, facts and tact. It has also ensnared Garcia into supporting a position that ignores Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to postpone the May 2020 municipal elections as the coronavirus pandemic bore down on the world. Rulings from the Texas Attorney General and Secretary of State have repeatedly said moving the election from May to November 2020 was a one-time event.
The specter of a previous effort to terminate Hayes hung over the room as well. In 2017, Mayor Bonnie White, Baroody and Vince Voelkel attempted to terminate Hayes' contract, leading to a bitter backlash against the City Council.
Rushing to Hayes defense on Tuesday was commercial real estate broker Pablo Brinkman, architect Peter Lewis, Planning and Zoning Chairman Mike Sigerman and former City Councilman Bill Rector.
Garcia had his defenders in the room — primarily allies from "Let Us Vote." However, he also got support from Place 3 candidate Katy Chapman-Hannah, a political ally of White.
In the end, the Council retreated for a 40-minute executive session, making just one announcement — it was appointing Glen Andrew to the Kerrville Public Utility Board. The outcome of the previous 80 minutes? Well, that's something the Council still has yet to determine, but Hayes is going nowhere for now.
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