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2014-10-23

City - $$$, Cardenas, interlocals & liaison

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

The biggest stories coming out of the Bandera City Council's meeting on Thursday, Oct. 16, included hints of financial impropriety and what didn't happen - but should have.
Apparently City Administrator Lamar Schulz has been combing through financial records and has come up with something that even auditors failed to catch - the removal of $350,000 from a City Certificate of Deposit in June 29, 2012 without apparent approval by city council. The money was deposited in the General Fund Bank Account and expenditures are now difficult to track.
"I've gone through the minutes from Jan. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2012 and could find no discussion of this withdrawal in an open meeting," Schulz told council. He added that he had not reviewed the tapes of the meetings, just the minutes.
However, according to financial records, expenditures included two 20-foot by 40-foot storage containers at $9,200 and a 2012 Chevy Tahoe for the marshal's department at $35,0000 for the marshal's . Additionally, the street department purchased 25 concrete culverts for the 12th Street drainage project at $65,2000.
"The proper transfer of public funds is by a budget amendment," Schulz said. "There is no record."
Of course, signatures on the withdrawal slip were those of Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher and then City Administrator Mike Cardenas - a fact, when announced, that was not lost on those attending the meeting.
"The problem was there was no accountability or oversight," Councilman Glenn Clark said, adding, "Did you ask Mike about it?"
Schulz admitted he had not.
Former Councilman Lynn Palmer asked Schulz why he had not approached Cardenas about the problem. "Why didn't you just ask him? You're just causing chaos," she said. "This should never have been on the agenda."
Defending Cardenas and Schumacher, Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier felt sure that an examination of the audit report would show an explanation. "What do we want to do, audit the auditors?" he asked.
When a second person queried as to why this surfaced on the agenda at this time, Mayor Don Clark stepped in to defend Schulz saying, "Lamar is just trying to keep everything transparent. No one is accusing anyone of stealing."
To end further discussions, Mayor Clark directed Schulz to work on the matter further.
After the meeting, a city-watching wag opined that to bring up innuendos of financial malfeasance in the middle of a mayoral campaign smacked of politics. "They must think Maggie has a good chance of winning," he said.
In other business, Cardenas has apparently resigned as public works director effective Friday, Oct. 24, but will work as a part-time consultant with the city until he can retire in the spring with 25 years as a city employee. However, his resignation left the municipality without a water-wastewater quality monitor, a position which is mandatory to run a city's water system. Certification of this type must be done in stages and not via a two-hour online course. In other words, when Cardenas leaves, his certifications go with him.
One agenda item was "approval of position and job description for Water-Wastewater Quality Monitor," which council promptly voted to create. However, later council failed to discuss or vote on Cardenas' new position. Therefore, a special called meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 22, to correct council's oversight.
A clarion call also went out soliciting interested citizens to serve on an Interlocal Agreement Committee to create an interlocal agreement between the city and county. "Why don't you just let your attorney create one?" asked Palmer.
Additionally, Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson declined a request from council - led by Councilman Jim Hannah - to become the commissioners court's liaison to the city. Currently that position is held by Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes.
As Grimes explained, "I volunteered to be the liaison to the city because of my interest in the Economic Development Corporation. I would think with being in charge of Mansfield Park, Andy's got more than enough on his plate."
As the city-watching wag observed, "Why does city council think they can select the county's liaison to the city? Why don't they just appoint their own liaison to commissioners court?"