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7 p.m. is the new High Noon

By Bev Barr BCC Editor

The Honorable Mike Towers officially and legally swore in recently elected councilwomen: Christine Morse, Lynn Palmer and Rebeca Gibson.

The city council met for a whopping two and a half hours Dec. 4 to address a wide range of agenda items, including an open evaluation and discussion of the performance of the city administrator, and the ironing out of details and filling in the blanks of the city’s multiple agreements with Main Street Shops and Lofts, Ltd. The Honorable Mike Towers swore-in recently elected city council members, and the council re-appointed Rebeca Gibson to continue to serve the city as mayor pro tem. The council made non-controversial but necessary decisions regarding the use of the city’s water tower to recognize Lady Bulldogs Cross Country Championship, and listened to the president of the Bandera Business Association, Julie Conrad, as she shared an overview of the association’s annual report. The council agreed to begin to look into the possibility of purchasing the Moore Title building (located on Pecan Street across from the courthouse), and heard a first reading by president of the Economic Development Corporation, Art Crawford, of the EDC’s intent to buy five vacant lots on Buck Creek Drive in Bandera.
City Administrator Linda Coones chose to have the council discuss her evaluation in open session, rather than in closed executive session. And, as Mayor Schaumann pointed out, it was Coones’ choice (the employee) rather than the council’s choice to have the evaluation in open or private session. There were times during the often argumentative discussion that council members expressed a desire to convene in closed session, in order to be more specific about Coones’ interactions with other city employees, but that did not happen. The council remained in open session and was consistently conscientious and duly diligent in avoiding discussing other employees by name in the public setting.
Councilwoman Kunz initiated the city administrator’s evaluation by stating that she hadn’t seen any real changes and that although Coones “shined” and was doing a “fine job” with things related to TCEQ and financials, she does not think Coones manages people well and said that she lacks “follow through.” Kunz provided a couple of examples, including the request for an “exit plan for Kyle (McCain),” the interim public works director, a plan which was never developed and delivered to council. A disagreement about the current status and availability of this interim public works director ensued and remained unresolved. Kunz said that some of the choices Coones has made and continues to make undermine her authority as manager and that Coones doesn’t take accountability for her actions.
Council members and Coones argued at length about details and discrepancies in online job descriptions and in both a hypothetical and an actual applicant’s qualifications (education and licenses), and the city’s priorities for employment consideration. Coones said that she would not hire someone just because they are somebody’s friend, and that she had been “pushed to do that.”
(Toward the end of the meeting, when this subject came up again, Mayor Schauman volunteered to listen to past recordings of meetings and determine exactly what the council had agreed upon and thus put closure to the disagreement about expressed intentions.)
Kunz made a motion (which was later amended) to remove Coones as city administrator and to contract with her to continue with those projects she handles very well, specifically TCEQ, financials and the water wells. Mayor Schauman said of the possible changes that would result from the motion, that it would “free Linda up to do what she does so well.”
Council seemed to agree that management of personnel wasn’t Coones’ forte, although they disagreed to what extent. Councilman Clark stated flat out to Coones, “You have absolutely no management skills.”
Councilwoman Gibson strongly disagreed with terminating the administrator and described the criticisms of Coones as personal attacks and overkill.
Councilwoman Palmer agreed with Gibson and reminded everyone that things used to be “a real mess.” Palmer said she thinks Coones is doing a great job and is “just doing the best she can.”
“This is not a personal vendetta,” Kunz said. “Linda has not been able to rally the troops and get done what needs to get done.”
Council members became bogged down in the legal verbiage as Kunz amended her motion. Mayor Schauman described the distinction between terminating a person from a position for “lack of confidence” versus “malfeasance or misconduct” and there was some discussion that there was justification for both reasons, when considering past misconduct on which the council never took action. Lack of confidence as a reason for termination would require four votes by council and malfeasance/misconduct would require three votes. Councilman Clark suggested that they consult with their lawyer, and that he would not second the motion without consulting with the attorney first. But that didn’t happen, and the motion died. Then, the council moved right on.