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WU Council Moves Forward on City Manager’s Ouster

June 18, 2015 By:Anne Marie Kilday

Local News

Despite overwhelming and vocal opposition from their supporters, the new West U City Council on Thursday approved hiring attorney Richard Rothfelder to negotiate the terms of a retirement package for City Manager Michael Ross.

The 4-1 vote to approve Rothfelder’s hiring came in a fractious and surreal meeting, in which West U residents who had voted for the slate of Brennan Reilly, Bob Kelly, Burt Ballanfant and Mardi Turner urged them to abide by their campaign promises of transparency and openness in local government.

The new council members repeatedly rebuffed Mayor Susan Sample’s attempts to publicly discuss their reasons for wanting to get rid of the veteran, 14-year city manager.

The mayor had wanted the council to discuss an earlier offer to Ross — tendered by Councilmembers Brennan Reilly and Burt Ballanfant — that would have allowed the city manager to retire for a sum of about $300,000. Sample also wanted the council to discuss why they wanted to oust Ross, since they have been in office for only 18 days.

Reilly and the other members of the council voted 4-1 to block that discussion until after an executive session, when Sample withdrew that agenda item.

West U resident Jim Shields charged that the new council was acting at the behest of former Mayor and current Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kelly.

“You are relentless in your pursuit of revenge,” Shields said.

Even supporters of the new council challenged their decision. The slate of candidates formed during the controversial consideration of a long-term Municipal Facilities Master Plan, which involved a land swap with West University Baptist Church. The new council members said they objected to a lack of transparency during those negotiations.

Michelle Moore, who said she had supported the slate, repeatedly demanded that  Reilly and Kelly look at her while she made her comments to oppose Ross’ ouster.

“I voted for you all,” Moore said. “I am not happy with this lack of transparency. I have heard no reasons why Michael Ross should come up for review.”

“This all makes me very upset,” Moore said. Quoting Reilly from a November 1, 2014 meeting, Moore said. “He said this process stinks.”

West U resident David Dutch, another West U resident who supported the slate.

“I supported all of you,” Dutch said. “I don’t like the ways you are handling things here.”

West U resident Michelle Chen urged the council not to take any action to terminate Ross’ employment with the city. She said their decision seemed to be “due to a personal vendetta.”

Ross’ performance as West U’s city manager was praised by several former council members, including former Mayor Pro Tem Phyllis Cohen, Steven Segal, Joan Johnson, Ed Heathcott and George Boehme.

In a lengthy letter to the council, Cohen suggested that they had violated “the spirit, if not the letter, of the Texas Open Meetings Act,” which requires city councils to discuss city business in public.

Segal, who ran unsuccessfully for city council, urged the the council to “stand by your pledge of transparency.”

Boehme, after acknowledging that Ross “is a very close friend,” told the council that the city manager has always acted at the direction of the West U council.

“Here is a city manager who has never worked for ya’ll,” Boehme said. “You come in and you want to fire him.”

Ross’ management of the city also won praise from several West U prominent West U residents, including commercial real estate broker Marshall Clinkscales.

“Michael Ross is a man of absolute integrity and high moral character, and he is recognized in his field,” Clinkscales said.

Ross also was praised by West U residents who couldn’t attend the Thursday morning meeting, include Joni Hruska Fichter, the founder of the Challenger Division of West U Little League, and West U Little League president Robby Winston.

The council’s action was supported by two residents, Susan Ohsfeldt and Alita Drewes.

“I support the city council’s decision regarding Mr. Ross, however it goes,” Ohsfeldt said.

Drewes has repeatedly addressed the prior city council about the the city manager’s decision to prevent her from using city facilities. Drewes, who was repeatedly warned about her behavior at the city’s Senior Center and parks facilities, contends that her First Amendment rights have been violated.

Reilly and Kelly defended themselves against charges that anyone had violated the Open Meetings Act.

They said they wanted the council to meet in executive session to protect Ross’ privacy.

“I am quite familiar with the Act, as well as the need for more transparency,” Reilly said.

Sample said she opposed hiring special counsel, because “It puts the cart before the horse. My desire as mayor was to work as a team and to put personal agendas (aside). This isn’t the way I wish he started.”

Reilly repeatedly said that Sample’s comments were “out of order.”

At one point, Sample ruled that her comments were “germane,” and she asked Reilly to listen.

Reilly then stated that he wanted to “appeal” Sample’s ruling, a motion that was seconded by Kelly.

Ballanfant suggested, “Let’s let the mayor talk,” before the council voted 3-2, to allow the mayor to discuss the hiring of Rothfelder. Ballanfant and Turner sided with Sample on that one point.

Reilly and Kelly also said the executive session was needed, and allowed, to discuss personnel matters.

“The main reason we are doing this is to protect Mike Ross,” Kelly said, to laughter. Shields called out, “Oh, Bob! Give us a break!”

After the meeting, Ross declined to comment.

Long-time West U council watcher Dorothy Zink, who attends most of the city council meetings, said, “I’ve been coming for 16 years and this is the worst city council meeting I’ve seen, ever, ever. I’ve just never seen anything like it.”

 

 

 

38 Responses to “WU Council Moves Forward on City Manager’s Ouster”

  1. George Boehme Says:

    Reasonable people can disagree on the wisdom of allowing pseudonyms for blog posters.

    But keep this in mind – our country has a long history of anonymous political discourse. The Federalist Papers were published anonymously as “Publius.” Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay published their 85 essays encouraging the ratification of the United States Constitution using a fake name. Why? Because using their real names could have subjected them to ridicule or harm.

    The publication of political commentary under pseudonyms has been around forever and their significance and legal legitimacy was ratified in the case, McIntyre vs, Ohio Election Commission.

    There is no question that when someone publishes a comment using a real name it commands a greater level of legitimacy. But anonymous commentary also has discussion value.

    Our Terms of Service will try to strike a balance between encouraging the free flow of ideas and encouraging respectful commentary, simultaneously. So stay tuned.

  2. West U FACT Says:

    I am offended by the attack on Lucille Gallman. I find her comments to be sharp and accurate. It doesn’t matter where she lives. Good ideas are good ideas, period. How dare anybody attack her integrity. Instant News Network should be ashamed of itself.

    • Brokelyn Says:

      Was Lucille attacked? I think she’s well-respected here and that last comment seemed fairly reasonable and perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek. No?

  3. Lucille Gallman Says:

    This week I made a comment on a weather blog in the Houston Chronicle. A message popped up saying that the post was waiting for moderation before being posted. Nothing I said about Tropical Storm Bill needed censoring, but sometimes it is just a requirement prior to posting. During a West U election years ago, the comments seemed so silly and irrelevant, that I thought they were coming from a college dorm. When anonymous comments are made on the Instant News West U page without any restrictions, there can be no way of knowing who or where they are from. I am saying that many organizations have decided to require ways to verify the source of comments.

    • West U Resident Says:

      You’d better watch what you which for Lucille. You post a lot of silly and irrelevant comments from the afueras of Katy on this West U blog youself.

      • Lucille Gallman Says:

        You make a good point. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I’m going to have to look up afueras.

  4. Brokelyn Says:

    George,
    Your publication as well as the other major one in town have key managerial figures who are also deeply tied to city politics. Nothing wrong with that, but I hope that with your redesign there will continue to be a strong effort made to separate the politics of the publication’s employees and the news that is reported. The message boards here are also incredibly valuable forums in which any voice can be heard and I hope that the politics of the people running the forums/publication do not influence the free-flowing (and yes, at times fractious) discourse here.

    Lucille: I agree with your observation about the increasing level of offensive postings, but I think that the message boards have been self-policed fairly well when completely out-of-bounds vitriol has been spewed. I agree though that there should be some way for the publication to edit out truly offensive and baseless postings (on a basis that does not squelch the free flow of controversial voices).

    • Lucille Gallman Says:

      Brokelyn: I believe there should always be a variety of what is available to read and how it is presented. Some prefer what the Instant News provides. I have enjoyed being able to see and comment on what is going on in my old home town. I do look for journalistic objectivity and don’t always find that in Instant News reporting. An Instant News has its place but sometimes I do think there should be some moderation in what is printed.

  5. Jim Shields Says:

    You heard it here first.

    The rumor mill is buzzing. We’ll soon see how accurate it is.

    A few weeks ago Burt Ballanfant went to Southside Place City Hall to recruit their city manager David Moss. So the Slate made up their minds. I am assuming Moss is a doormat who will do their bidding. According to the TCMA code of ethics, Moss should not be talking to anyone from a different city about a position of city manager until it is posted and open. These guys get sneakier and sneakier the more I hear.

    Mark the date today. Yesterday at the meeting, the slate said they had no ideas on succession planning. If you see Moss’s name pop up you will know that yesterday they did indeed have a plan in place and chose to lie about it to us citizens.

  6. Lucille Gallman Says:

    Mr. Boehme: Since Instant News WestU is making some changes, please consider having an administrator in your organization approve comments before they are posted. Moderating user posts have been practiced by larger organizations for some time but is increasing due to offensive, anonymous postings.

    • George Boehme Says:

      We will have a Terms of Service that will address these issues.

    • Ted Ferguson Says:

      Lucille,

      Let people say what they want, using whatever name they want. If it’s truly obscene, vulgar, threatening, etc., George and staff have enough sense to pull it down. We don’t need to censor people’s speech – we’ve got enough of that in this country, already. We’re all grown-ups, and if you don’t like people being mad at someone, I wouldn’t hang around here for the next couple of years. There are plenty of sites with cute cat .gifs, though.

  7. George Boehme Says:

    The policy of InstantNewsWestU.com has been to not have our staff comment on stories. That is going to change with the redesign of our websites in the next couple of months.

    So I will jump the gun here.

    It is difficult to believe that anyone at the meeting today was not offended by the sophomoric conduct of Council members Brennan Reilly and Bob Kelly.

    And I am sure both of your wives would slap you silly if they saw how you treated Mayor Sample.

    But we must move forward. Please act more appropriately at Monday’s meeting. Perhaps the most redeeming quality of western civilization is our ability to forgive. So we forgive you. But please don’t do it again.

  8. Citizen Says:

    The City Manager is a big part of this whole stinking mess. Not totally to blame but a big part of it.

  9. Resident Says:

    Perhaps, just perhaps there is something untoward that the City Manager did that should not be made public. That would be a legitimate reason for the closed door sessions. Just another perspective…

  10. Vietnam veteran Says:

    Bob Kelly never served in a combat role. Kelly never served in Vietnam. People who have served in the military rarely talk about it. Bob talks about it all the time. That’s how you know He never really served. Ask him to produce his military record. Bob served he served stateside. Bob, show us your combat record you talk about?

    • Jim Shields Says:

      Bob served in the Air Force as a fighter jet pilot in Turkey. He was never in combat.

      He served honorably. Today? Not so honorable.

  11. Vernon Guy Says:

    I thought Bob Kelly was still riding out Tropical Storm Bill in Wimberley.

  12. I voted for Bob Says:

    There are no secrets with Bob. Sometimes I like him sometimes I don’t. Bob is a fighter by nature. I believe he has quite a distinguished military service record fighting for the U.S.A. Some of the other folks at the meeting today were real stand-up guys also, basically calling the council members names.

  13. Johnny B Says:

    One last comment: Bob Kelly said the reason for secrecy and non-public discussions about the city manager was to help the city manager.

    This was right after Bob Kelly’s friend of over 30 years, Jim Shields, spoke about the deep hatred Bob Kelly had for the city manager. The crowd howled in laughter.

    We are past the election. We need to move forward. But Bob Kelly is a bad, perhaps sick, man. This is all bad.

  14. Never Been to a CC Meeting Before Says:

    I read the West U Essentials where the columnist suggested it would be interesting, so I went to the city council meeting today. It was interesting, but also sad.

    The best line from one of the speakers was “You are relentless in your pursuit of revenge”.

    The comment was directed at one of the city council members, who I later learned was Bob Kelly.

    The man (Mr. Kelly) was sad, very sad. He was angry, and was disrespectful, and he was unbalanced. I wonder if any of you who were there disagree with my interpretation? Something bad is going to happen with this group.

    • Brokelyn Says:

      Never Been,
      Thank you for participating in our government. I hope you will now continue to be involved. We need MANY more of the 85% who refused to vote to now step up and be heard.

      Don’t take my word for it, read through articles and commentary on this blog (instant news westu) in the weeks prior to the elections. You will see for yourself that Bob Kelly (in particular) was called out at a vindictive, mean-spirited, and political animal. What you witnessed today was Exactly what he is. It is Exactly what was previously advertised.

      I would love to hear from ANYONE who voted for him. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!

  15. Joni Says:

    To: Michael Ross
    Please list me as a reference as you look for a new job as I will tell whomever what an excellent job you have done and what an insane move on West U Council’s part it is to force you to leave. During your tenure, we (and by that I mean those who truly work on behalf of our community to make it a wonderful place to live, not those who vindictively work for the good of themselves only), our city has flourished! Our prize-winning parks and recreation programs are better than ever, our new Rec Center is state of the art and Community Center has had a great facelift, city “square” is thriving in conjunction with WUE, WULL, Tri-sports, and local businesses, our police and fire departments and city staff are the best…overall West U is pretty close to perfect. You should be very proud of yourself…you have been one amazing city manager and without you, there will be a real void. Thank you for leading us well, with dignity and pride in our community. We should be having a parade to honor you…not a show of disrespect and ingratitude. Best of luck…whichever city is fortunate enough to hire you will get a real treasure!

  16. Annon Says:

    Think we could sign 4 separate petitions and deliver them to the Secretary on December 1st?

    • Rick Kellogg Says:

      I will support the recall petition.

    • J Faulkner Says:

      i will be glad to sign a Recall petition. Our City certainly is better than this representation! These guys had an agenda before they were ever in office. Too bad so many didn’t see it coming but we do need to ‘fix it now!

  17. Jim Shields Says:

    It has been suggested that we have a recall election to get rid of the slate. Is that possible?

    • Annon Says:

      Section 4.07. – Power of Recall.
      The people of the City reserve the power to recall any elected officer of the City and may exercise the power by filing with the City
      Secretary a petition, signed by qualified voters of the City equal in number to at least 15 per cent of all qualified voters of the City,
      demanding the removal of the elected officer. The petition shall be signed and verified as required for an initiative petition.
      Section 4.08. – Recall Election.
      The provisions regulating examination, certification, and amendment of initiative petitions shall apply to recall petitions. If the petition is
      certified by the City Secretary to be sufficient, the Council shall order and hold an election forthwith to determine whether the officer shall be
      recalled.
      Section 4.09. – Results of Recall Election.
      If the majority of the legal votes cast at a recall election be for the recall of the officer named on the ballot, the Council shall immediately
      declare the office vacant and call a special election to fill the vacancy.
      Section 4.10. – Limitation on Recall.
      No recall petition shall be filed against an elected officer within six months after taking office, and no officer shall be subjected to more
      than one recall election during the term of office.

  18. Johnny B Says:

    This is no longer about Michael Ross, he is gone. And he will find a job in short order, with a pocket full of money.

    This is about the conduct of this city council, a city council we just elected. Burt and Mardi were obviously embarrassed by the behavior of their running mates, Bob Kelly and Brennan Riley.

    Mardi looked like was constipated during the whole meeting. Burt is a rather civil fellow and you could tell he was uncomfortable with the pettiness and the meanness of Kelly and Riley.

    This was like reality TV today.

  19. Neighbor Says:

    I was glad to see Joan Johnson and Ed Heathcott at the meeting today. Too bad Bob Fry and Dick Yehle were not in attendance. Why didn’t either of them say “yes, Michael Ross followed our (the previous City Council) instructions”.

  20. A Proud West U Voter Says:

    I am proud to say that four of the five people for whom I voted in the last election lost. My reasons for voting for the four that lost have now been confirmed.

    To the current circus and its “elected” clowns- good luck in your pursuit of support and collaboration going forward. You have clearly alienated your consituents and you are going to find it difficult to get things done, unless of course you continue to keep the throttle forward on your respective steamrollers.

  21. Drives to Committees Says:

    I witnessed part of this meeting and the arrogance and bitterness on the parts of Reilly and Kelly is tangible. This was embarrassing for them. West U is learning a lesson: voters get what they deserve when they don’t vote or vote strictly on emotion. Ms. Kilday calls it surreal and that’s a good term for it. Embarrassing is another.

  22. Johnny B Says:

    You would never believe it if you were not there. Brennan look childish and penchant. Bob Kelly was an obstinate bully. Kelly, your best excuse is that you were drunk.

  23. Brokelyn Says:

    Tangley Resident, they DID fool us. They got elected, they held the meeting, they got their way.

    95% of this city got hoodwinked. Those of us in the minority had no chance. I’m more angry at the citizens of West U right now than I am at Council.

  24. Tangley Resident Says:

    I have been following West U city council meeting for 25 years. Today was a first, there was a city council meeting at 9am on a weekday. We disturbed the rodents and the insects who normally have the chamber to themselves.

    Seriously, slate candidates. Who do you think you are fooling? Why not call you special meeting at 3am next time?

  25. Brokelyn Says:

    Egypt heralded the emergence of democracy by voting in Mohamed Morsi. When he proved to be a fraud, he was deposed of his rule.

    Council, pay heed. You do not have two years of free reign just because 95% of registered voters made bad decisions (10% voted for you and 85% neglected their duty to vote).

  26. Jim Shields Says:

    I hate bullies and what we witnessed this morning was a despicable display of bullying by Bob Kelly and Brennan Reilly. The interrupted Susan sample over and over and disrespected her office.

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