Mayor gets grilled
by Tim Delaney
May 30, 2014 | 541 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
REFUGIO – The Refugio City Council met in a workshop Tuesday, May 20, but the meeting was more a kangaroo court with Mayor Joey Heard on trial.

Heard was grilled with questions from council members through the session.

Overall, council member Karen Watts simplified the entire workshop, telling Heard she and the others just wanted to know what was going on and what was being spent and why.

Council member Dale Skrobarcek complained about the process to get agenda items on the agenda.

He said he tried while Heard was at a Homeland Security training seminar out of town and was told by the city secretary he had to go through Heard.

Skrobarcek said the council can set the process for getting agenda items on the agenda. He indicated he would put that on the agenda to be considered by the council.

Heard agreed that the items had to go through him, but that when he was out of town, the items should be processed by the mayor pro tem.

“I have not kept anything off the agenda,” Heard said.

Council member Lenny Anzadua said getting something on the agenda in the past was easy, that all he had to do was email the city secretary.

Heard said Anzaldua avoided his phone calls and messages.

“What’s the difference between emailing me and emailing (the city secretary)?” Heard asked.

“I think it’s the fact that when we want to put something on an agenda we shouldn’t have to get someone’s permission to get it on the agenda,” Anzaldua said.

“I not controlling the council, I’m controlling the agenda,” Heard said.

He added that he uses the Texan Municipal League model to create an agenda.

“I have not kept anything from the agenda,” Heard said, but Skrobarcek disagreed.

“We’ll just make a motion to change it ... majority rules,” Anzaldua said.

Heard showed the council the TML section on formal meetings and the order of agendas.

“If you don’t want it on there, you won’t put it on there,” said council member Wanda Dukes.

Watts said as an elected adult, she felt like the council should be able to contact the city secretary and have an item placed on the agenda.

“Getting back to people on the streets, they can’t put it on there,” Anzaldua said.

Heard said anybody can place an item on the agenda. But then he remembered one request to place an item on the agenda from Kenda Nelson.

He said because Nelson is involved with a pending court case, he couldn’t put her on the agenda.

Anzaldua said the council would never understand until it gets a chance to discuss it.

“Why are we blocking access to discussion? This is wrong,” Anzaldua said.

“I haven’t stopped you from getting on the agenda, so I don’t understand,” Heard said.

“I think it is the tone,” Watts said.

City Secretary Callie Shreckengost asked if she should take requests from council members now, and Heard said “fine.”

The council also questioned Heard on working relationships among city employees, the council and mayor.

“I asked that this be put on the agenda because city employees in the front office and head of parks and street departments made comments that the council was after their jobs,” Watts said.

Heard accused Skrobarcek of making comments like that in front of Don Pullin.

Watts said she thinks the city secretary had been in a situation where she thinks her job is on the line.

“It’s a hostile work environment,” Watts said.

“Have you told them that the council is after their jobs?” Watts asked Heard.

“I am in no way, form or fashion ... after any of the city jobs. I feel like the employees need to know that the council and major support for the employees are there. We need t work together in a positive manner,” Watts said.

“It’s a hostile work environment. It’s got to stop, and it has got to start with you, Joey,” Anzaldua said.

“I think as mayor, it’s very unprofessional,” Dukes said.

“We need to realize that the words that come out of our mouths can hurt,’ Watts said.

“There is a communication barrier. What do you want me to do,” Heard said.

Heard admitted that he gets riled at times.

“When I get that way, tell me please refrain and come back. It’s not an overnight trait. It’s me,” Heard said. “I understand. I can correct it.”

Watts said a two-way discussion would be a good start.

“We don’t have to be ugly with each other,” Anzaldua said.

“I agree,” Heard said.

Heard suggested email communication with Anzaldua because Anzaldua did not want to talk on the phone with Heard when he became riled.

“Yes, but I can’t look at email at work plus my phone doesn’t work inside the center ... I’m not mad at you. I don’t like to be hollered at,” Anzaldua said.

“Email sounds like the way we should communicate. I’ll put urgent in the message,” Heard told Anzaldua.

“Disagreeing on a topic doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable,” Watts said.

“In the office, y’all are in close proximity. You can’t work in a hostile environment,” said council member Frank Hosey.

“A professional relationship from now on... I promise,” Heard said.

Heard also was questioned by Anzaldua if Heard knew what his budget was.

The city’s server broke May 1-2, and Heard had it replaced. The server and software totaled about $11,000.

Skrobarcek said the item should have been discussed with the council because the old server was repaired enough to run a little while.

“My main worry is I really like to keep my head wrapped around expenditures. The budget will come up again,” Watts said.

Attorney fees also was brought up. So far, $30,000 has been spent and $35,000 was budgeted.

Anzaldua suggested using legal services through TML.

But Heard said TML has advised the city to use its city attorney on issues and policies.

Among those policies were changes the council initiated.

“What do we do now with six months left?” Watts asked.

Another item was an expenditure to make available a 380 agreement with business. The agreements are designed to reclaim taxes when incentives to move businesses in are used.

One such incentive is annexation.

Refugio County Community Development Executive Director Victor Garza, who was at the workshop, said he asked the mayor to take it to the attorney to make it ready for council approval. The attorneys have looked at wording in the document, but nothing has been approved.

“I have to say at the front end, there is some secrecy needed,” Garza said.

A workshop to discuss 380 agreements was set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 28.

Shreckengost said the council has never done budget amendments. She said with five months to go, the technology, administration and water/wastewater budgets are high ... 58 percent spent over seven months.

She said the general fund budget was expected to be at 58 percent spent at this time, but only 52.25 percent had been spent.

She added that revenues were at 59 percent.

“So it may, hopefully, come out in the wash?” Watts said.

“Yes,” Shreckengost replied.
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