Levelland City Council met last night for a worksession on rules and procedures for City Council meetings.
Mayor Waymon Jackson stated there was only item on the agenda was rules and procedures for council meetings. He stated he was perfectly satisfied with the way the meetings were running.
Billy Youngblood began discussion on Rules and Guidelines for Citizen Participation which was handed out. Those guidelines are similar to what was discussed last week stating that citizens would sign up in advance with city secretary and would speak from microphone and act in professional manner. The Mayor then stated that as long he was Mayor you will not have to sign up to speak as long as I’m here you will speak–this council belongs to citizens of Levelland.
Larry Davidson then stated that the mayor did not have that authority. Attorney Richard Husen then was asked to read the city charter concerning duty of Mayor and City Council. Mayor Waymon Jackson said if he could not run council meetings in way he wished then he would have to be removed by court order.
Cody Poage then spoke to the council–he stated that when he was elected to the council Rick told him not to speak to people in the audience because it agitates them. (Note–that is per Open Meetings Act) He suggested that prior to a meeting council could hear open comments and then at the end of the meeting if they would like then they can speak to council members individually. He said that would give audience members time to speak then council could have meeting without interruption.
Raymon Jackson then spoke and asked Rick why a recent item was not on the agenda on an item concerning city judge. Rick stated that he did not see a need for it to be on an agenda and I advised the individual that he could come speak in open meeting. As soon as we come to a council meeting there are 3 council members that make a motion vote on it and pass it. Waymon Jackson then stated this is exactly why I want people to speak during meeting because we have hid stuff from the citizens. They then brought up another item which was not on the agenda. The Mayor then starts talking about an item concerning Fire Department and asking Council Members if they knew if anybody else is looking at the issue. He then stated that the Texas Rangers are investigating the mistake. Several Council Members stated this item is not on the agenda, however he kept talking. He said firemen called the Texas Rangers. No specific details on the situation was released by anyone. KLVT news learned from city administration that there was a clerical error involving payroll of more than one fire fighter and it is being handled.
B.J. Brackens–stated she does not live in city limits any longer, however, said she owns property in city. She stated she did not know about the fire department issue. From several comments heard in the meeting, it would appear to be an error in payroll. Brackens said that if firemen had been overpaid and they were told to not worry about it by city administration. She further said that if their are mistakes come forward with it and address any and all problems as they arise. I would like to keep the open forum meeting. The Mayor stated another problem with the city has arisen and he just found out about it today. He states city staff is hiding stuff from council.
Councilman Joe Bill Vardeman stated “If we don’t have order you have chaos–recommend comments at beginning of meeting.
Tania Moody, a local business owner and property owner then spoke, she stated she did not understand why all councilmen are saying the same thing–but it is falling on deaf ears. She noted that many people including her have contacted council members because we are tired of this city being the laughing stock–We can do better. She further stated–I don’t agree with how Mayor conducts himself at times. She also asked all councilmen and Mayor, how many had been through open meetings training. All councilmen raised their hand along with several in audience including city manager and other staff members. Mayor Waymon Jackson has not been through Open Meetings Trainings, Moody stated “that bothers me and I leave you with that thought.”
Billy Youngblood said he will recommend that the rules for participation is what he will recommend to be voted on at the next meeting. He also said that as stated in Open Meetings act–Citizens have right to attend open meeting however they do not have the right to decide what goes on agenda. He stated only item on agenda tonight is to discuss rules and procedures for city council meetings but we have strayed as we do every meeting. The Mayor then brings up another personnel issue which council was not made aware of and Mayor was not made aware of. Larry Davidson said this is a personnel issue and as the City Charter states the City Manager has all rights to handle personnel issues. Mayor agreed.
Jerry Gilmer then spoke–I think council should stick to agenda and if someone from audience is attacking councilmembers or staff then ask them to leave immediately. He further stated if person has problem with city department then go to that department and then to city administration and council member. Larry Davidson said, What Jerry just said is exactly what charter says. We are not trying to get people to not speak we just want it in an orderly manner. Davidson then stated it is your responsibility as Mayor to make sure we stay on track.
Max Ledesma then stated we have been working on this too long. Cody Poage then asked to speak again–I am not for having to sign up to speak because people will just sign up for everything.
Davidson said that in the event of council member or Mayor getting out of order council can vote with majority vote to have them removed. Mayor said we haven’t had a problem with people getting out of order except on a couple of occasions when he asked them to sit down and they did. He further stated that you can’t fix something that isn’t broken.
Raymon Jackson then spoke and said we were here for a work session and nobody has discussed anything about what they want on it we are not here to talk about what was presented by staff.
1) Citizen Comments at beginning of meetings and place time limit if necessary based on length of agenda. They also agreed that if a citizen would like to speak during agenda item Mayor can recognize them as long as they speak in a constructive manner and stay on topic of that agenda item.
2) Concerning Personnel it should be brought to individual council member or Mayor and they can try to work it out before it actually gets to a council agenda. If it cannot be worked out then as last resort go to council.
3) They discussed procedures for putting items on the agenda. They seemed to agree that item should be brought to a council member and try to work issue out or then they can work to put it on agenda. Joe Bill Vardeman stated that if you are discussing a personnel matter of any kind then that should be in a closed meeting.
Citizen Pete Cunningham then asked why are we airing personnel matters in public and he also stated that attacking the character of city council members or city staff should not be allowed in public comments. He further stated that “at times I am ashamed to be a citizen of Levelland.” The Mayor then brings up a total off topic issue concerning the pumping of water in the rail park, says the item is still not resolved even though council has ordered cease and desist order. This is an EDC issue and they have legal counsel hired working on the issue.
Councilman Larry Davidson then asked in reference to open meetings training what the law stated concerning how long an elected official, Mayor included had to get the training. KLVT news has researched and section 551.005 of the Open Meetings Act states that all elected officials have 90 days from the time they are administered the oath of office. Mayor Waymon Jackson has been in office over 1 year and still has not received the training which he admitted in open meeting last night. He said he felt there was an exception to the rule.