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Kicking Cardenas' can down road

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

During a special meeting of Bandera City Council, held at 9 am, Thursday, March 27, Councilman Jim Hannah disingenuously offered, "I don't want to kick the can down the road, but ..." What transpired next was a textbook case example of kicking the can down the road.
Yet again, council postponed voting on the by-now-familiar agenda item: "Change Mike Cardenas job title to Public Works Director and negotiate salary." Ironically, the item had been carried over from previous regular and special meetings.
Cardenas still remains city administrator. And he is likely to do so for a while because there was no mention of his reassignment to director of public works on the agenda of a special-called meeting, slated for 9 am, Tuesday, April 1. (Please note, the Courier did not choose that date.) Also, the regular city council meeting scheduled for 6 pm, Thursday, April 3, has been cancelled.
Courier readers who are confused by all this are urged to join the club.
Again, no action
The morning of March 27, council attempted to take action on eight agenda items, but only managed to cover three. They accepted the resignation of City Secretary Linda Boshek; received a short update on the status of codifying the city ordinances; and approved soliciting for RFPs (requests for proposals) from law firms willing to serve as attorneys for the city.
The remaining five items were relegated to the special meeting and workshop on Tuesday, April 1. Other March 27 agenda items included: duties and job description of city treasurer and advertising for position, duties and job description of city secretary and advertising for position, interview process and application evaluation, review of applications for city administrator and the aforementioned oft-seen item regarding Cardenas' status.
Opening discussions of Cardenas' salary when he's finally reassigned as director of public works, Hannah said, "We're open to negotiations for a longtime city employee, but the city is operating in the red." Hannah added that when budget negotiations begin in July, the city would be in a better position to commit to a offering Cardenas a raise.
Hannah advised council it would make sense for Cardenas to stick with his current salary (as public works director) and factoring in previous raises he had received since assuming the dual roles 18 months ago.
"I realize this is not what you want to hear, Mike, but we must be conservative and be careful with money for the next three months," Hannah said.
Chiming in, Councilman Suzanne Schauman said, "In 2011, council voted to give Mike $855.77 per pay period." Then, she added, "When you do the math it gets convoluted" - and indeed it did! When the numbers settled, it seemed as though council offered Cardenas either $42,248.32 or $43,121.36 as director of the city's public works department.
Cardenas took offense at being offered less than the $43,000 starting salaries for full-time deputy marshals. He asked council to research the salaries of other department heads in surrounding cities.
Although the information was readily available to new councilmen, apparently Schauman had not availed herself of the salary numbers. "We're paying fulltime deputies in the marshal's department $43,000?" she asked incredulously. "I'm flabbergasted and amazed at the numbers."
Hannah indicated that the marshal's office had received generous salaries during last year's budget negotiations. Of course, at that time Hannah approved the salaries, but ultimately voted against accepting the 2013-2014 budget. City law enforcement salaries were made commensurate with those in the county to preclude having the city act as a training ground for officers just out of police academies.
Tax increase coming?
"The city is operating $194,000 in the red and we can't do it for four more years without depleting the fund balance," Hannah said. Raising the specter of a tax increase, he added, "We have a lot of work to do this July and we're not going to be popular." To which a city-watching wag whispered, "What makes him think he's popular now?"
To throw Cardenas a bone, Mayor Don Clark suggested giving him a 5 percent raise, increasing the proposed public works salary to $45,000.
"A department head who's been here less than a year is making $52,000 a year," Cardenas replied. No one on council seemed aware of this fact.
Nonplussed, Mayor Clark offered, "We haven't done our homework."
To assist the fledgling city councilmen, a review of all city employee salary structure was included on the April 1 agenda. The general consensus was that until a new city administration is hired, Cardenas would continue in that capacity because as Boshek pointed out, "You can't change a job title in a workshop."
Additionally Councilman Glenn Clark advocated "... checking to see what other public work directors are making," information that Cardenas had already provided council with weeks ago.
43 applicants
In related business, there have been 43 applicants for the position of city administrator. Now council must devise a plan evaluating and interviewing prospective candidates. "We all have access to a password and the applications online," Schauman said. "So we can eliminate the those who are unqualified and live too far away."
Glenn Clark suggested his colleagues review and rank the applications. "I have three number ones and six number twos," he said, adding, "Don't eliminate anyone just because they live in Florida. They may want to relocate. We could get rid of the ones that are not acceptable."
Hannah recommended scheduling personal interviews before the April 15 application deadline.
"Go ahead and add this to the workshop," Mayor Clark said.
Action items on April 1 included:
• Appointment of interim city secretary and treasurer
• Appoint committee of two council members to review applications for city administrator
Workshop items without action included:
• Duties and job descriptions of secretary and city treasurer and advertising for positions
• Interview process and application evaluation (presumably for the position of city administrator)
• Review of all city employee salary structure
'... must be punished'
Again, last week's special city council meeting underscored that the current governmental body lacks critical thinking, institutional memory and vision for the city - and now tax hikes for residents seem to be on the horizon.
Which brings to mind what former New York Mayor Ed Koch said after being defeated for re-election in 1989. When asked if he would ever run for office again, Koch replied, "No, the people have spoken ... and they must be punished."