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WU Council: Long Meeting, Little Action

June 23, 2015 By:Anne Marie Kilday

Local News

In a lengthy, three-hour meeting Monday, the West U City Council took no action on veteran City Manager Michael Ross’ ouster in an executive session.

The council also deferred consideration of several other agenda items related to that issue, including the appointment of an interim city manager and advertising for an executive search to recruit a potential new city manager.

“The most I can say at this point is that would be premature to appoint an interim city manager,” said Mayor Susan Sample.

Sample said later that the terms of Ross’ severance package with the city of West U “is still being negotiated.”

The council had met in an executive session with special legal counsel Richard Rothfelder, who was appointed to negotiate a severance package with Ross last week. But they took no action after that executive session.

Former City Council Dick Yehle castigated the new members of the city council for their efforts to oust Ross, who has served as West U’s city manager for 14 years. Yehle also criticized Councilmembers Bob Kelly and Brennan Reilly for their conduct during a meeting last week.

Yehle said he had listened to a tape recording of the council’s June 18 meeting and said that he was “appalled” at the new council members’ “hypocrisy” in trying to get rid of the city manager.

“I don’t know how you’re going to pay for your capricious action,” Yehle said. “You guys are getting ahead of yourselves on this one.”

And, the former councilman chided Kelly and Reilly for being rude to Mayor Sample during the June 18 meeting.

“Bob, Brennan, please look to your right. This is our mayor. She’s the mayor. She deserves a lot more respect than you’ve been showing,” Yehle scolded.

Several West U residents applauded Yehle’s comments, and one person yelled out: “Hear! Hear!”

Yehle’s comments about the council getting ahead of themselves proved prescient, as they repeatedly deferred action on several agenda items that had been listed for consideration.

The council delayed action on considering its rules of procedure, appointing a citizens task force to advise on the long-term Municipal Facilities Plan and a proposal to require city staff reports to the council to be made public.

Because the council is meeting Wednesday, at 8 a.m., for a workshop meeting for orientation and goal setting, those items were deferred until that meeting.

Reilly repeatedly stressed that he wanted those items on the agenda to advance more transparency in municipal government.

He said that the city council’s rules “are very important. I want to live by our rules. They are quite different from the rules of general dinner table etiquette.”

The council’s rules, Reilly said, can provide a way for more “robust discussions” of city issues.

During the meeting, Reilly demonstrated that he intends to fully discuss business before the council.

As the council considered a resolution to approve the city’s investment policies — an annual requirement under state law — Reilly asked numerous questions of City Finance Director Rhonda Daugherty. Reilly said he would prefer to table the resolution, or take no action. But City Attorney Alan Petrov explained that the Texas Public Funds Investment Act requires an annual review by the council.

The council unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the city’s investment policies.

The council also gave preliminary approval to a change to the city’s code of  ordinances that would allow Dr. Dan Jordan to open a new veterinary clinic on Kirby Dr. The Building and Standards Commission had recommended that the council approve a  change that would allow the veterinarian to “kennel” animals, which are in the clinic for veterinary medical care.

Steve Brown, chairman of the Building and Standards Commission, delivered the first of several bad puns during the discussion, when he said, “The BSC doesn’t have a dog in this fight.”

“What we are trying to do is good for the city — developing a long dormant property on Kirby and protect the nearby residents.”

Several West U residents whose pets have been treated by Dr. Jordan endorsed the change. West U’s code of ordinances limits the number of dogs and cats that residents can have.

But, because of unclear language about the maximum number of animals that could be kenneled in the facility — which was pointed out by Councilmember Mardi Turner — the council wanted to approve the change on first reading, with clarifying language to be added before the second reading of the ordinance at the council’s July 13 meeting.

Reilly strongly objected, saying: “I don’t feel comfortable” passing the ordinance on first reading because “I don’t think that’s fair” to those residents who had objected to the new veterinary clinic at meetings of the Building and Standards Commission.

Kelly also objected, saying the corrected ordinance should be done by the BSC.

Sample, however, urged the council not to delay, citing possible damage to the veterinary practices.

The council gave its preliminary approval to the  change by a vote of 3 to 2, with Sample, Turner and Burt Ballanfant in favor and Reilly and Kelly voting against it.

During a very lengthy discussion on future agendas for the city council, Reilly suggested that council members be allowed to bring up key issues for consideration at each meeting.

Reilly had apparently brought a lengthy list of items for the council to discuss at future meetings, saying that he wants “a lot more openness.”

He suggested that the council ask the West U Solid Waste and Recycling Board to be prepared to make a presentation to the council at their July 13 meeting on recycling green waste. Turner seconded that request.

Reilly said that council agendas in West U are “a complete mystery” to the public until 5 p.m. on the Friday before each regularly scheduled meeting.

The council did approve a staff change that promotes Assistant Director of Public Works Dave Beach into the full-time position of Director of Public Works, in anticipation of Assistant City Manager Chris Peifer’s retirement later this year. Peifer has served as assistant city manager and director of the public works department.

43 Responses to “WU Council: Long Meeting, Little Action”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Also Margaret G.:
    Where did you hear all of those lies? Kelly? I am a very close friend of Michael Ross, and can personally confirm that he does NOT get a company car. And if you are over paying him so much, then why does he need to drive 45 mins to and from West U every day (just to show and and be treated like this). Mike has poured his heart and soul into this city, and it’s sad to see him being treated like this. Some of you are so spoiled, you don’t know how good you have it. Check your facts before you believe Kelly again.

  2. Plumb St. Homeowner Says:

    Why do we pay outrageous salaries to our city manager and police chief? What do they do that is so special? Seems to me that anybody could do their jobs just as effectively for 1/2th price. If it’s true that we pay for the police chief’s vacation – that needs to stop IMMEDIATELY! I’ve never heard of such a thing. Bob Kelly wants to fix City Hall. Let him do what needs to be done.

    • Jim Shields Says:

      Plumb Street

      A few questions

      1. How do staff salaries in West U compare with other cities our size?
      2. If we fire the City Manager and the police and fire chiefs, how much will our tax rate go down?
      3. What evidence do you and Kelly have that City Hall is broken. The vast majority of our citizens are very happy with the way our city is managed. If we were unhappy, the educated wealthy people who live here would vote the bums out. In the last election, nobody showed up.
      4. What city services are unnecessary?
      5. Who told you that we could get a replacement for Ross for half of his salary?

      I could go on, but you get my point. You should have the facts before you make such outrageous claims.

    • Brokelyn Says:

      Plumb St. Homeowner, have you benchmarked the pay and performance of our city manager and police chief to other cities of comparable size and assets when you make that assertion?

      Do you shop at Fiesta or Randall’s for your fruit? Seems like anyone could buy their strawberries at Fiesta for less money! Measure quality and effectiveness. The last two times I called the West U police, they arrived at the scene within 3-4 minutes (I checked my watch). Twice when I was out of town they called me because they noticed something unusual at my house. I feel completely safe walking our streets, even at 2 am. Ask someone just 10 miles in any direction from here and you won’t get the same answers.

      When you call the city for assistance, do you end up leaving a message in a “311” call center? Are the people you speak to well-educated and able to do more than just take down messages or read off of a script? Our employees solve problems. They think on their feet. They are always “on” and ready to serve. On the day Houston was deluged with floods recently, West U sent out online and telephone alerts. They then sent out a message around mid-day asking anyone who required assistance to contact them — they had crews ready to roll. Are you kidding me?! That doesn’t happen anywhere else. Ever.

      When you need help from our police, fire department, or city, do you have to pay bribes, wait multiple days for a call back, speak to an uneducated kid who can’t hold a conversation, fill out reams of paperwork (ok, there’s some paperwork but it isn’t bad), and stand in lines out the door? No? Be thankful, because those are the things that people deal with all over the country and the world (assuming that they can even find someone who can help in their local government).

      WE HAVE IT GOOD HERE. Malcontents like you only see problems and never have solutions. You never face reality. Stop listening to your radio and television pundits. Stop engaging in the politics of divisiveness (which really is just “Politics”). I dare you to come back and offer anything substantive (i.e. FACTS) to back up your claim that city hall needs to be “fixed” and that “anybody could do their jobs just as effectively for 1/2th price.” Even if you just answer 1/2th of my question, that would be great. save the other 1/2th for another day.

  3. Steven Segal Says:

    In case you read the Village News (June 23), I want to comment about a statement attributed to me in the article on the front page. I emailed the following to the Village News, but I doubt they will print a correction.

    Open Letter to the Editor, Village News June 23, 2015
    Front Page article about “West U. Meeting…Bitterness, False Information….”

    From the article:
    “Several speakers, including Steven Segal, who was defeated in the recent election, related 20 percent voter turnout in “off” period elections to how well the city is run, despite the fact this is in line with historical norms.”

    I have no idea what Ben Ballanfant meant to say or what this means, but it is clear Ben did not understand what I said. By publishing this Letter to the Editor, you can correct some of the ”false information.”

    My statement to Council included the following:

    “Most residents are very happy with the services provided by our City. So much so that 80% of residents regularly do not even bother to vote – they just assume the City Staff will continue to function at the current outstanding level – with Michael Ross as City Manager and our current Department Heads in office – regardless of who is on Council.”

    I did not make my statement “despite” the fact (80% do not vote) – I made the statement BECAUSE this is the historical norm. Many residents who do not vote have told me that our excellent staff runs the City and Council members come and go – and who is on Council makes no difference in the long run.

    This Council appears to be the exception, setting out to dismantle our City government.
    Perhaps this will “wake up” the 80% in future elections.

    Steven Segal

    • Jim Shields Says:

      Steven

      Ballanfant also changed what I had to say. He said I told a tale about Kelly twisting my arm to run against Boehme. That was a factual first hand account of the tremendous – albeit friendly – pressure Kelly on me to run against Boehme. I made it clear that if I won I would have to resign because I would rather go to band rehearsal on Monday nights.

      Kelly also made it very clear to me that his disdain for Boehme was exceeded only by his contempt for Mike Ross. I did not make this up. I was in no way surprised that his first act out of the box was to fire Ross.

      I knew there was a reason that Ballanfant’s mullet wrapper that gets thrown on my lawn every week goes straight to the recycle bag.

  4. don brown Says:

    My 2 cents .. I support Ross. Period.
    As someone said earlier how come all of a sudden he is not doing the job. All this negative tea party jabber is another way of saying anti-government doesn’t get the job done. We have many far right wingers in Washington and Austin who seem to think they were sent there to be against everything the other guy is for. We seem to now have the same attitude among members of our council.
    I didn’t vote for anyone to walk into the council chamber to change things for the sake of change.

  5. Mike B Says:

    I am an ex employee who retired from the city a few years ago. When I read comments about city jobs being a cake walk, employees doing nothing and the benefits are hard to come by, you people really don’t have a clue. The city workers are the hardest working people I have ever been around. They care about the citizens and the City of West University Place. Every Director, Manager and hourly employee is cross trained so you citizens receive the service you expect. How dare you say the employees “do nothing” when only 15% of you voted! West University is a good place to work but have any of you checked to see the turn over rate? I remember many employees leaving for other cities and for the private sector. As far as upper management, there are some perks that go with the positions. Should some of these be removed? Maybe so but so will the leaders who have worked so hard to provide the services you have asked for. Michael Ross is a good man and maybe its time for a change but thats up to you. Elections have consequences and that is obvious in West University and in Washington. I’m proud to be a tea party member and I take responsibilities for my actions or lack of action. Its time you people wake up and accept responsibility for who you elected.

    • Brokelyn Says:

      Right on, Mike B!

      Please notice that it was a single person who made that idiotic comment about city workers. The vast majority know how well our city runs and appreciate people like you who make it happen.

      And I agree wholeheartedly that we the citizens should be ashamed at our pathetic turnout at the polls. There’s no excuse for that and we are now seeing what happens when a vocal minority gets out the vote. Serves us well. All of the people (except Susan) I voted for lost. I was dumbfounded and still am.

      Finally, sorry, but the tea party is just another forum for politicians to push ideological agendas without regard for good old-fashioned common sense. All of our parties are a mess and the tea party is just a bit more extreme.

  6. Stephen D. Says:

    I think that is what they are saying Lucille. you report to a supervisor not to upper management. if you jump the track you lose accountability.

    • Lucille Gallman Says:

      When I worked I did indeed report to a supervisor (manager/director) and not to upper management, but I was working as a secretary in big corporations with a CEO. I did work in small offices where upper management was my supervisor. Looking at the West U Organization Chart on the city web site, it looks like upper management is The City Council (Mayor & City Council). Maybe the new City Council wants to learn more about day-to-day operations.

  7. Jim Shields Says:

    Margaret G.

    It would be helpful to know your name so the people of West U can confront Kelly.

    You are telling us that Kelly, who ran on a campaign of honesty and transparency secretly had an agenda to fire the city manager and dilute city services – fire and police.

    Do you think we citizens would have voted for a candidate with such a platform. Apparently Kelly didn’t think so because he kept it a secret. He told you but no one else. Why is that?

    • Jim Shields Says:

      Did Kelly tell you what other city employees he would fire?

      This is really big news if it is true.

      Wouldn’t you agree that it would have been helpful to have known before we voted that Kelly and the slate had this sort of reduction in mind?

  8. DOMESTIC Says:

    But Bob Kelly will make sure the negros know their place.

  9. Margaret G Says:

    I don’t know how I get the email for this thing. Because I never signed up for it. I Usually ignore it.

    Bob Kelly is a good man. I back him totally. The employees are totally overpaid. West U is a cakewalk. Our fireman do nothing. The police do nothing. Some police departments have a large number of reserve members who are paid nothing. Why can’t we do that?

    We are a small city. Bob Kelly told me he would fire the city manager and and reduce the city employees. Did you know the city manager is given a city car? Did you know the police chief is given a condo for two weeks a year in Bermuda at city expense?

    These are the types of things Bob Kelly will expose. How can you say that is bad? Bob Kelly is good.

    • West U Resident Says:

      The fire department does nothing? They put out two major house fires in the last two months. They also double as your EMS. Why don’t you walk over to the fire station and tell them that to their faces. I doubt many residents would be for a volunteer fire department and a reserve police force like you (and apparently Bob Kelly) advocate. Maybe you should pay attention to what is really going on around you instead of making up facts to fit your argument.
      And in yesterday’s news…

      http://www.click2houston.com/news/firefighter-hospitalized-after-battling-fire-in-west-university/33713664

      Firefighter hospitalized after battling fire in West University

      One firefighter was taken to a hospital with heat exhaustion after battling a house fire in West University on Monday.

      The fire happened around noon at a two-story residence on Vanderbilt Street near West University Place.

      The firefighter is expected to be OK and was hospitalized as a precaution.

      “The firefighter was taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion,” HFD district chief Kenneth Currie said. “He was making an interior attack on the second floor. We had a fire in the attic and we had a partial collapse on the second floor. He was separated from his crew. We had to call for a mayday, but we were able to locate the firefighter and get him out within a minute. We got him cooled off and he was transported to Hermann Hospital.”

      Currie told KPRC 2 that firefighters thought they had extinguished the fire, but that it got in between floors and a wall.

      “The home is one of the larger homes out here, it’s 10,000 square feet,” Currie said. “The crews did a good job. We were able to put a stop on it and we saved a lot of property.”

      There were no other injuries.

       

      • Anonymous Says:

        THANK YOU! HOPEFULLY MOST RESIDENTS DO NOT FEEL THAT THE FIRE DEPARTMENT DOES NOTHING. I HAVE DONE MY BEST TO SERVE THE CITIZENS OF WEST U IN THIS CAPACITY FOR MANY YEARS AND PRAY TO GOD THAT IT WAS NOT IN VAIN.

        • Brokelyn Says:

          Not at all, anonymous. Our fire department and police force are integral parts of the soul of our city. Don’t let one idiot define how the VAST majority of us feel about y’all.

          If I could come by and thank each and every one of you in the WUFD and WUPD every day, I would. Thank you!

    • What? Says:

      Margaret G –

      Your post is so asinine that I have to comment. People pay a premium to live in West U for the services of our fire and police departments. If you want mediocre police and fire, live elsewhere.

    • Brokelyn Says:

      Thank you for speaking up, Margaret.
      I have been a “customer” of the services of both the police and fire departments and I find both to be among the best on this planet. As someone who has lived in multiple cities in this country and who travels worldwide, I will vouch for the effectiveness and efficiency of both departments.

      I’m fairly certain that you have led a sheltered life as an adult if you cannot appreciate how well this city operates. But I am only guessing. Based on your comments, you must know of other cities of our size and asset base that has fewer municipal employees who are paid less than West U employees and who deliver a quantifiably higher level of community service. PLEASE tell us where this is so that we can benchmark them and improve ourselves. Otherwise, stop listening to politicians and get educated!

  10. Johnny B Says:

    You are all looking over the obvious. Why didn’t this crowd can him when they had the chance? Four of them knew the cost when they approached the city manager and told him he had to go.

    Now they have backed off. Two of them have reconsidered.

    Good for them.

    I can’t resist saying “I told you so” on Bob Kelly. I hope all of you who voted for him are having buyer’s remorse. Bob Kelly is just a bad seed.

  11. Tangley Resident Says:

    Question. And I was not at the meeting on Monday. But I was there on Thursday.

    And the question is only for people who voted for Bob Kelly. So here is the question:

    When you saw Bob Kelly’s conduct on Thursday, were you proud that you voted for him?

    • Old Cynic Says:

      I voted for Kelly and was horrified by his behavior at last Thursday meeting. Not only was he rude to the Mayor, he was also rude to a West U resident seating in the audience. Kelly was apparently bothered by the fact that the gentleman was shaking his head so he burst into a question of why he was doing that and what was his name!
      I had never seen before such arrogance and such bullying and despotic behavior on the part of a council member.
      Truly pitiful.
      Also, the disrespect for the Mayor was appalling. Mayor Sample should be commended for keeping her cool in front of the “attack dog” behavior by Kelly and Reilly.

      • Anonymous Says:

        It would appear that Bob Kelly is trying to keep a well kept secret at any cost, even at the cost of the tax payers by hiring another attorney and buying out Ross’s contract. Which would end up costing about a half a million dollars, why? Seems like there was something involving Kelly several years ago that still smells rotten! Maybe SOMEONE can find out this secret that has caused such revenge! Inquiring minds want to know. Reilly doesn’t even realize he is being manipulated by Kelly to follow his lead to get rid of Ross. Reilly is preoccupied with the chance to even filibuster himself to hear himself speak.

  12. Neighbor Says:

    While all said in this blog may or may not be true, jobs with the compensation and benefits package that the city manager and other city employees enjoy are not that easy to come by. Hopefully the folks on city council will settle down. I think it will be good to have change at the top. I think Mike Ross has wanted out of here for a while.

  13. Tangley Resident Says:

    I didn’t go to the meeting. Shouldn’t have to.

    My prediction: Mass exodus of employees.

    The idea of having department heads reporting directly to the city council departs from basic management norms. Michael Ross assembled this blue blood management staff, and when he leaves, they will leave with him.

    When Michael Ross came here, we had a police chief watching porn in his office at the police station and a building inspector that was selling home-builders time-shares.

    We now have a efficient machine operating at city hall. And a group of political hacks is going to dismantle it is six months or less.

  14. WUES Mom Says:

    I went to the meeting last night to see if Bob Kelly would act rude to Susan again. Someone must have scolded him because he was fairly respectful.

    I had two eggs in my purse and was going to throw them at Bob if he was rude again.

    So I had two hard boiled eggs for lunch. Thanks Bob, there is no reason to be a rude person.

    • Lucille Gallman Says:

      Does Mayor Sample really need all this protection. My daughter is also an attorney and I think she would consider it unnecessary. This generation of professional women can take care of themselves.

  15. Jennifer McKerrow Says:

    I attended last weeks and last night’s council meeting. What has become clear is that Ross is only the first person they want to leave. Based on the torture that Reilly described for the staff to begin reporting mundane operational tasks there will be many vacancies very soon. Looks like our city is going to be set back about 15 years with this council. What a shame.

    • Jim Shields Says:

      Jennifer, I hope you misunderstood what Reilly is up to.

      I have served on many boards and councils and I was the executive director of Justice for Children – a non profit organization. A fundamental principal is that the executive works for the council or board and the staff works for the executive. This line of reporting is very clear.

      It is absolutely unworkable to have the staff report to the board. Can you imagine the chaos if the staff had to please five – essentially volunteer – people in addition to the executive?

      Reilly is out of his depth.

    • Lucille Gallman Says:

      I worked for companies of all sizes and in each an employee reported to a supervisor. It didn’t create hostility. It gave me the opportunity to discuss my job and make suggestions for improvement. Also, working for West University Place would be a great job. The environment is the best, the people are nice, the wages and benefits are equal or above most, the parking is free and at the door. Employees leaving is a non-issue.

  16. Brokelyn Says:

    Thanks, Jim. Your insights continue to be helpful and very important to our understanding of what is really going on in Council.

    You may not perceive it as such, but in the first few weeks of this Council, you as a private citizen have provided more value to the residents of West U than you probably could have as a member of Council.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    I understand that we can have a recall election after the slate has been in office for six months. Unless they calm down and start behaving like adults, we may have to move to that option.

    When someone like Reilly offers solutions, the first thing we should do is ask what problem he is trying to solve. As was made perfectly clear at last Thursday’s meeting, we long term residents are very happy with the way our city is managed. How is it that Brennan has identified a problem which has been unnoticed by us all these years?

    Brennan is a tea party activist who believes that all government is bad. Kelly is playing Brennan like a fine tuned fiddle to exact his revenge on Mike Ross.

    • Jim Shields Says:

      I posted the above. Don’t know how it was made anonymous. Sorry

      When we post our name, civility folows

    • Anonymous Says:

      Stop using the tea party activist label as a negative description! You’re losing credibility with your name calling. The tea parties that have formed over the past 10 years have had a positive impact on our national political system. Sadly, there is very little difference between Republicans and Democrats.

      • Lucille Gallman Says:

        I don’t understand why he even mentions the Tea Party. I wonder if he does.

      • Brokelyn Says:

        It IS a negative description. The Tea Party occupies an area further right than the mainstream Republican party, which makes it very attractive in an election (which is why politicians never pose as moderates during elections, but in their final terms often slide towards the middle) but completely unworkable in practice. Activists are one thing, but the Tea Party is just another cancerous growth feeding off of emotion and ignorance (I lump the two major parties in this group as well).

        Frankly calling anyone a member of the Tea, Democratic, or Republican party is an insult.

    • Ted Ferguson Says:

      Jim,

      Please drop the “tea party” line. While not a member, myself, this has nothing to do with any tea party. This is good old fashioned, homespun small town politics at work – not the tea party.

      I do appreciate your posts, though, and I agree that losing Michael Ross will cause ripples of damage to our beautiful city. As Steven Segal pointed out, we have award winning everything here. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Apparently, several current council members agreed with this at one time, seeing as how they kept renewing his contract and giving him raises during their past tenures on council. I’d love to know the supposed reason for canning him. I believe that the honorable Susan Sample has asked this very question, numerous times, and I’ve yet to hear the answer. The bullying of her during that meeting was disgusting. On the other hand, if this crew wanted transparency, they’ve definitely got their wish: everyone is carefully scrutinizing every step they make.

      • Lucille Gallman Says:

        I remember when a previous West U City Manager was criticized for something like attending a conference and his reply was that it was in his contract. I assume that all West U City Managers have had a contract. If so, what are the details? Is it automatically renewed or is the renewal subject to a vote by the other members of the City Council?

        • Lucille Gallman Says:

          Of course the city Manager isn’t a member of a city council.

        • Ted Ferguson Says:

          If I remember correctly, the city manager’s performance is reviewed by council every year, at the end of the year, and his contract is adjusted accordingly.

          14 years worth of continued employment and raises is clue #1 in this Scooby Doo mystery.

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