Friday, August 5, 2011

Mayoral Conduct Stuns Citizens at Meeting

The City Council Meeting of August 4th was a hot one indeed. The new City Council exercised it's powers and authority, questioning the accuracy of the recorded minutes, and standing firm on certain expenses - the Mayor's "lividity" was evident to everyone after ejecting two citizens, slandering a third and threatening to have Alderman Pena forcibly removed from the dais. The Mayor left the dais along with Vandygriff and Turner, leaving a seated quorum to conclude the public business.

The citizens assembled didn't appreciate the Mayor's comportment from the very beginning of the meeting. The Citizen's comments were somewhat lengthy and protracted due to a procession of complainants regarding the City's excessive permits, fees & requirements. One speaker, later ejected by the Mayor, researched the CDBG grant funds and found they could be used for water improvements and wanted the Council to have that information as there was an agenda item regarding those funds. The Spanish language petitioner with Alderman Pena translating took quite some time in relation to other speakers. At the beginning of Steele's administration the minimum residential building permit was $25, today it is $750 given the resident's accounts of statements from the City's Building Official.

After admitting in the August 4th issue of the Ellis County Press that he "paid the bills" without City Council approval to save the city $11,000 in late payment fees to the State Comptroller, Mayor Steele should have understood that there would be no "consent" on the consent items.
[ED NOTE: CLICK HERE to read our companion story "ECP: Steele Pays Bills Without Council Approval]

He joined the consideration of the two regular consent items, approval of minutes of prior meetings and the expenses items, only to have Vandygriff move to discuss the issues separately when the approval of the minutes lead to an extended discussion of their accuracy and portrayal of the events in question at the prior meetings, specifically motions and the paying of certain expenses.

It was during Alderman Pena's briefing on progress with the Water Task Force highlighting the lack of cooperation from City Hall in establishing the planning groundwork for proceeding with water improvements task force that the crowd began to percolate. One woman was ejected by Officer Sawyer at the Mayor's insistence and threatened with a citation.

Another woman seated near the woman ejected was told by the Mayor that the City has two jail cells and he was sure she had already seen the inside of them, whereupon Mr. Pena demanded an apology for such an insulting affront to a citizen among a group of citizens assembled. The mayor requested the woman apologize for "calling me a son of a bitch" whereupon again Alderman Pena remonstrated him for offensive language and Steele replied that "son of a bitch" wasn't a bad word or offensive enough to be considered disorderly conduct. The woman who had been insulted corrected the mayor and replied that she hadn't used that phrase, she just agreed with the previously ejected woman who had used the term. Steele insincerely apologized.

In short order, comments from the citizens assembled resulted in more persons being ejected from the council chambers over Alderman Pena's repeated objections. The Mayor stated that he would have Mr Pena removed if he so desired, citing some recent event in the City of Duncanville.

No reporter was present after the second citizen was ejected until the meeting recessed for Executive Session.

After returning from the Executive Session, the Mayor called for motions resulting from the closed deliberations whereupon the temporary services contract for the interim city secretary was terminated and Crystol Birdwell was reappointed to the position of City Secretary beginning August 5, 2011. Alderman Pena, retaining the floor after the vote and making additional motions as the result of  the Executive Session deliberations, was then called out of order. The Mayor called for a motion to adjourn over Pena's objection and received the expected responses from Vandygriff and Turner (motion and second) and called the meeting adjourned and left the council chambers with VandyTurner in tow. However, Steele never called the question on the motion to adjourn, there was no vote, and a quorum of the City Council retained the dais and continued with the post executive session motions until they had concluded the public business, at which time the meeting was properly adjourned upon unanimous consent of the assembled quorum present.


Editor Publisher said...

I'm not sure, but I believe that Alderman Pena may have quoted this when he assumed the chair vacated by Mayor Steele:
Sec. 22.037. MAYOR AS PRESIDING OFFICER; PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE. (c) If the mayor fails, is unable, or refuses to act, the president pro tempore shall perform the mayor's duties and is entitled to receive the fees and compensation prescribed for the mayor

Anonymous said...

You forgot to put the information about the free park the council voted down.

Editor Publisher said...

Free Park? Oh you mean the Honors Academy School Playground they want the city to fund. As stated in the article, no reporter was present for items C through G so we couldn't cover that topic.

John Eggen said...

This new council campaigned on the premises of not doing business as usual. They were right, not as usual but business as it was during the Wickliffe, Lowe, Lang and Hudson era. The way the vote was ccnducted regarding the hiring of Crystol Birdwell as City Secretary smells like a "walking quorum". Council members Turner and Vandygriff were not aware that Crystol was even a candidate for the job, but Council Mebers Pena, Wells and Madrigal jumped right in there on a motion by Pena and hired her on the spot without any discussion by the City Council. If it smell like a pig and oinks, it's still a pig!

You are absolutely right Joe,
"And in case any of our readers were wondering: Yes, we have verified that this type of polling is considered by the current Texas Attorney General staff to be a walking quorum and subject to criminal prosecution as of the date of publication (29 July 2011)".

This isn't a two way street... condimnation by you for their actions is well deserved.

Anonymous said...

The mayor's actions, remarks, sidebars, and overall behavior is embarrassing, not even his wife, who he has used not only in substaining his childish life style, but her name to "get him where he is", DOESN'T SHOW UP TO BE SEEN WITH HIM. She must be embarrassed as well. On the matter of the "so-called park", please people! NOTHING is FREE! If anyone dares show the public the lease agreement, post it. You people, as always speak on what you have been told, gossip is fact! BS This is another "red herring" mastminded by Steele and his small political rah-rah's for some unforeseen benefit. Does anyone remember that the "OTHER COUNCIL" allowed Honors to open without changing the zoning first? Doing an "ASBESTOS STUDY/ ABATEMENT" or obtaining the proper permits required by the state on a public building/school with more than $50,000 in improvements. I challange Honors to put on display in the library any engineering, architectural or asbestos infomation. Let's see those permits and letters. Let's see that lease. The history of this school has always been shady. This is not about the children or education, I honestly wish it was. Unfortunately, it's about politics and the games continue. With adults acting in such eays, what can we expect from our children? Nothing is free, liability is liability and hidden agendas always come to lite.

Editor Publisher said...

My questions are:
Why is the City funding a paved road that is not to be a thoroughfare for vehicular traffic (rather than a driveway)?
Why does the playground need to be paved and require paved street access at public expense?
Where is the playground supposedly going to be located - will it be on the City owned right-of-way on Ferris Street?
If not, is it supposedly to be located on "school property"?

If the playground is not ON Ferris Street then it would not be on public property, it would be on private property temporarily used for public purpose operated by a non-governmental entity.

Can the taxpayers expect to see a DEED granting the land to the City before the taxpayers get rooked into paying for improvements to some person's private property?

If the playground isn't on Ferris St, the City isn't allowed to improve it with public money since it's not public property.
If the playground IS going to be located ON the thoroughfare dedicated and deeded to the city and currently known as Ferris Street - then there are major complications with designating a thoroughfare for non-vehicular traffic, compliance with the transportation code and the Coity's Comprehensive Plan, zoning and platting issues that must be resolved before a thoroughfare can be permanently dedicated for other specific purpose.
Check out the Texas Codes online and search for "street",
"thoroughfare", and "right of way dedication".

What's that smell anyway?