Finding solutions to 'mess that is our city'
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
(Editor's note: Recently the city called two special workshops. Part I includes job descriptions, employee performance reviews and who's in charge. At the conclusion of the Jan. 25 workshop, Councilman Jim Hannah admonished the Courier to "get it right, Judith." To which the Courier rejoined, "Get your truck door fixed, Jim.")
Although Bandera City Council meets just once a month, special sessions-workshops-brainstorming sessions were called on Friday, Jan. 17, and Saturday, Jan. 25. As per a recommendation from the Texas Municipal League, agendas for both meetings were the same.
On Jan. 17, Councilman Suzanne Schauman took on the topic of creating job descriptions for all city employees and staff. Her main complaint seemed to be if key personnel were unavailable, "Nobody knows what anybody should be doing. The city administrator must prepare job descriptions." She added, "The city is a business and needs to be accountable to the public. We have to get this thing straightened out."
According to City Administrator Mike Cardenas, city job descriptions could use "tweaking" because some had been in place 10 to 15 years.
On Jan. 25, Schauman noted that the Texas Local Government Code outlines employees' legal obligations and duties. She asked Cardenas to revamp the descriptions.
When Councilman Nita Jenkins asked, "You're giving them back to Mike?" Schuman explained, "It's the job of the city administrator to prepare job descriptions with specific functions."
Cardenas indicated he would begin the revamping as well as the cross-training of employees. "I'll want input from the council," he added.
Lynn Palmer, a director of the Economic Development Corporation, pointed out that the new job descriptions would have to be approved by council. She also suggested an update of the city's personnel policy handbook since the last was completed in 2004.
However, it was also noted that job descriptions are not a substitute for good management.
Additionally, on Jan. 17, Councilman Glenn Clark advocated yearly performance reviews for all personnel. Everyone agreed, but dickered on the timing of reviews.
Schauman wanted to tie reviews to an employee's date of hire while Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier favored scheduling them so proposed raises could be based on the performance reviews. "Leave employee reviews to the department heads," he said.
City Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks told council he reviews his deputies after six months of employment, then at one year and annually after that.
"Let Mike get with the department heads and have them tell us what works best for them," Glenn Clark said.
"Previously, Mike and Charlie always presented their performance reviews to council during budget workshops so possible raises could be factored into the budget," said former Councilman Brandi Morgan. All appeared to agree that was a good idea.
On Jan. 25, council leaned toward scheduling job reviews in the summer, prior to budget workshops.
It was also suggested that the current office layout at the municipal building should be revamped for more efficiency. One suggestion was to relocate the marshal's department for security reasons. "The way it is now, Charlie and his deputies are sitting ducks," Glenn Clark noted.
"If we relocate the marshal's office, it would free-up space," Cardenas said. Several alternative spaces were discussed. Council asked Cardenas to come up with a cost estimate for relocating law enforcement.
Who's in charge?
Handing out his by-now-familiar organizational chart on Jan. 17, Councilman Jim Hannah launched into one of his favorite subjects - "municipal form of governing under the state local government codes." In the City of Bandera, Cardenas currently serves as the chief administrative officer and reports to the mayor and council while the mayor acts as the city's chief executive officer. On Hannah's original chart, the mayor would apparently have more authority than the city administrator.
In response, Mayor Don Clark said, "This has already been passed. State laws govern authority and I think this has already been covered. Mike and I are a partnership. No one is over each other."
Concurring with the mayor, Schauman said, "I don't agree with this chart. I like the way our ordinance is written. To make it work, not just one person can oversee the mess that is our city. The mayor and the administrator meet weekly and bring items to council if necessary."
"I agree that the mayor and administrator should be advisors and consultants. Mike is now the head of the marshal's department and public works. If it's not broke, don't fix it!" Glenn Clark said.
For the Jan. 25 workshop, Hannah arrived with a second graphic relegating the mayor to less of a micro-managerial position.
"Department heads, including the marshal, would report only to the city administrator," Hannah explained. "The and the city administrator would both would have access to the city attorney. The mayor would report to city council."
Hannah's second chart was reconfigured by Hegemier and Bandera County Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes, who serves as county liaison to the city.
Schauman added, "Both the mayor and the administrator serve under the council, but department heads could still speak to council members without going through the mayor."
After noting department heads, mayor and administrator would discuss problems, Cardenas said, "But I would make the final decision."
As presiding officer on Jan. 25 in the absence of the mayor, Hegemier suggested that the next step should be a codification of the "chain of command."