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City’s downward spiral continues Schauman resigns, searches still on

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pictured: Councilman Rebeca Gibson

Bandera City Council held two special-called meetings on Thursday, April 14, the first at 6 pm to deliberate, in executive session, applicants for the position of city administrator.
At that special meeting and in open session, Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Schauman resigned from city council effective Friday, April 22. As a reason, she apparently cast aspersions on the administrative ability of an elected official and noted that she “didn’t want to go down with a sinking ship” – or sentiments to that effect.
Previously, Schauman had withdrawn her name from contention as city manager and had refused to participate in the selection process.
At a meeting on March 17, Councilman Rebeca Gibson had floated an idea of forming a citizens’ advisory panel – appointed by council – to assist with the selection of a city manager. She was inspired to include the advisory panel in the process after serving on similar panels with Bandera Independent School District, where she teaches, and the city marshal’s office.
“I also had lengthy conversations with the legal service of the Texas Municipal League, as well as with the city attorney, and got the green light from both [for my proposal],” Gibson said in a prepared statement she read at an 8:15 pm special meeting on April 14.
Although her proposal had originally garnered support from others on council, most notably Mayor John Hegemier and Councilmen Jim Hannah and Charlotte Browning-Black, when push came to shove and “… on the threshold of making these appointments, some of the council are backpedaling,” Gibson noted.
Some concerns voiced by council members from their vocal – and nay-saying – constituents included:
• “Council shouldn’t let others make their decisions.”
• “Certain people may be upset that they weren’t picked [to be on the advisory panel].”
• “People are asking me, ‘Why elected officials aren’t capable of making the decision’?”
Addressing these issues, Gibson said, “The panel is strictly advisory and offers additional perspective, and council will have the final decision in the [city administrator] appointment. Committees are common practice. We have a wealth of experienced people in our community who can potentially bring perspective to any decision-making process.”
Gibson also cautioned, “If you back down from the previous decision you have made agreeing to this process, then you proven that you are, in fact, incapable of making a decision and following through.”
Then taking umbrage at earlier less-than-stellar decisions by council, she added, “With the exception of myself, this is the council who appointed the recently terminated city treasurer and city administrator. I implore you to ask yourselves, ‘What makes me the end all authority on accomplishing this critical task’?”
After reading her prepared statement, Gibson made a motion to appoint a citizens’ panel to review the final four applicants for the position of city administrator. Her motion died for lack of a second.
As a result, council interviewed the remaining quartet of applicants this week and will hopefully announce their decision at the Thursday, April 21, regular meeting.
Despite the inevitable outcome of Gibson’s initiative, her words rang true. “An informed council is a strong council, but resistance to positive and effective change may be an indication of a loss of sight on the mission and instead (signal) an attempt to hold on to the illusion of personal control.
“I would remind council that appointing a citizen interview panel would create a collaborative environment that includes stakeholders in the decision-making process. It taps into the intellectual resources within our community,” Gibson concluded.
For his part, Hegemier thought that involving citizens would merely serve to prolong the selection process.
And, speaking with Gibson after the meeting adjourned, Hannah said, “Council now has had enough experience in the interview process to make a good decision for the next city administrator.”
Hannah, it should be noted, “vetted” the last city administrator, who was terminated in December. He also supported the city treasurer who was terminated in March.