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2013-04-11

City of Bandera - who reports to whom?

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

On Thursday, March 21, Bandera City Council unanimously approved asking attorney Monte Akers to write an ordinance, directing all department heads to report directly to City Administrator Mike Cardenas. Cardenas will continue to report to the mayor and city council. Additionally, as the chief executive officer of the city, the mayor would retain signatory, ceremonial and appointing powers.

Three proposed ordinances later, the situation has not been resolved. Hopefully, during the meeting on Thursday, April 18, it will be. However, unanimous approval of a new clarified ordinance might not be forthcoming. Comments from Councilman Jim Hannah and Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier during the Thursday, April 4, meeting appeared to indicate they were wobbling on their previous decision.

No unanimous approval?

After previously voting in favor of a clarified ordinance, Hannah noted, "I'm perplexed why we're spending time re-doing this ordinance." He indicated that the old one seemed clear and that "common interpretations" of it were adequate.

Referring to an organizational chart apparently downloaded from the Texas Municipal League website, Hannah said, "I don't know why we've fixing something that isn't broken."

As was explained again, a new ordinance would delineate reporting lines after problems cropped up.

Because of personnel changes and revisions in job descriptions, supervisory and reporting channels needed to be revised and clarified. In the past, former City Administrator Gene Foerster had also served as financial officer. As pointed out previously, "He certainly was not expected to report to himself."

Additionally, it was unclear to whom the municipal court judge and city secretary reported. With a new ordinance, they will report to Cardenas.

Discussions on March 7, 14

Questions about so-called "chains of command" had continued to surface. An initial discussion on March 7 centered on a proposed ordinance amendment that would direct the city secretary, municipal judge, city marshal and city treasurer to report to the city administrator. During that meeting, Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier suggested convening a workshop to define the positions and create an organizational chart. "This would best be accomplished in a workshop," he said with a consensus of council agreeing with Hegemier.

The idea hit the agenda during a special called meeting of city council on Thursday, March 14 under the guise "officers and employees chain of command; no action to be taken."

At that time, Hegemier reiterated, "Currently, I'm not sure what (the reporting chain) is." Backing up his observation, Cardenas said, "I don't know what the chain of command is either."

Mayor Don Clark apparently felt the reporting status should remain the status quo - whatever it was. He said, "Is there something going on here that I'm not aware of? Mike and I work well together."

"Recently, there have been a lot of questions about the reporting chain," said Councilman Binky Archer. "We need to discuss and look at the chain of command."

"Who has questions?" asked a citizen. "Why is this really on the agenda?"

Lots o' ????

As it turned out, nearly every council member voiced concerns - and a great many city employees had asked questions. Those unaware of their supervisors included the city secretary, municipal judge and utilities clerk.

"This came up over a year ago," Cardenas said. "An employee would ask, 'Who's my boss?' and I couldn't tell them."

"What is the current structure?" asked Councilman Brandi Morgan. "It's the council's job to ensure that the city is being run efficiently. This discussion should not be viewed as someone is not doing their job."

With regard to the working relationship between Cardenas and Clark, Hannah said, "Basically, it gets done. (Don and Mike) confer and it gets done." However, his suggestion of the mayor and administrator as "co-managers" was not well received by his colleagues.

"Every employee needs a direct supervisor," Archer said.

According to Cardenas, currently, the court clerk reports to the municipal judge, the administrator reports to the council and mayor, the municipal judge and city marshal reports to the mayor, the city secretary reports to both the mayor and administrator and the utility clerk reports to the public works director. However, the city marshal also reports to the city administrator on a daily basis.

Even Hannah described the current chain of command as "a blur," adding, "We must comply with the Texas Municipal Code."

'Where's this coming from?'

Echoing the earlier verbiage of a citizen, Clark said, "I don't understand why we're having this problem. I'm wondering where it's coming from?"

"There is no definite reporting structure and this will continue to come up unless something definite is in place," Archer explained.

"It's better to discuss this now before real problems occur," Morgan commented. "It has to be clear who employees report to. The ordinance must state who reports to whom."

Apparently, Schumacher, Archer and Morgan had submitted letters to Cardenas requesting that the item be put on the Thursday, March 21, agenda of city council. According to Akers, this method ensures the item would be included. During the meeting, Morgan revealed that she had attempted to have an item placed on the agenda for three weeks - to no avail.

During that same meeting, however, city resident Jodie Sinclair submitted a formal request to council seeking an opinion from the Office of the Texas Attorney General asking:
"Do letters submitted by members of city council with regard to a shift in governing powers that would enhance their influence and diminish the powers of the mayor constitute a conflict of interest that undermines the trust and responsibility bestowed upon them by the voters of Bandera."

No AG opinion

Commenting on Sinclair's request, Akers noted in an email, "A request to the AG's office or an opinion would need to come from the chairman of a legislative committee with jurisdiction over the subject matter and would take several months to receive. I've not been asked to pursue one.

"I can comment that letters by council members regarding political issues are not conflicts of interest. If any such letter undermines the trust of a voter, then the voter may express that opinion at the polls.

"In general law cities such as Bandera, unlike Home Rule cities that provide for initiative and referendum in their charters, citizens' petitions have no binding effect on the City ..."

Action on the new ordinance was tabled on April 4. Akers is expected to present the new ordinance by the Thursday, April 18, meeting of city council.