Former Mayor Threatened Council Over Charter Amendments

March 12, 2013

More light has been shed on the West U City Council’s decision to remove amendments to its city charter from the May ballot.

The council recently decided to postpone a vote on the charter amendments until November 2014, citing opposition from residents. The council said it would bring the amendments back for a vote after suggesting that the Charter Review Committee hold public meetings to discuss their recommendations.

According to information obtained through an open records request, the city council received three e-mails from residents who were all against the recommendation to have the city secretary report to the city manager.

Under West U’s charter, the city secretary reports to the city council, but by ordinance, the city manager does have a responsibility to oversee the city secretary.

One of the e-mails was from former Mayor Bob Kelly who appeared to threaten the council with a “public campaign” if they chose to move forward with placing the charter amendment regarding the city secretary on the May election ballot.

“I feel strongly enough about this matter, as I believe many of our citizens will when brought to their attention, that I will organize a full scale public campaign against it immediately if that change is intended to be placed on the May ballot,” Kelly said in his e-mail to city council. “It is beyond me how this proposed changed [sic] got to this point and why.”

Kelly’s reasons for being against the amendment were that “no changes should be made to the city charter unless there is a ‘compelling’ need to do so” and that “if it an’t [sic] broke don’t fix it,” Kelly also wrote in his e-mail to council.

“Please advise asap if the intent is to move forward with such revision,” Kelly wrote.

Kelly told that the council needs to think long and hard before bringing the amendments back to the voters. He also said they would need a lot of “powerful people” behind them to have the amendments pass.

“Council needs to think long and hard before they put it up to the citizens to vote,” he said. “If it’s defeated it gives council a black eye.”

Kelly said that if the council puts it up for a vote, they are in effect supporting the amendments.

Many members of council said that the amendments are “excellent” but that they thought it was important to get information out about the proposed changes.

Both City Manager Michael Ross and City Secretary Thelma Lenz told that they had no opinion about the proposed amendment.

According to the Charter Review Committee’s report, there have been problems in the past with the city secretary reporting to the city council because they are not always present at city hall to supervise.

“Section 6.03 provides that the city secretary is appointed by and serves at the discretion of the city council. In the past, this has created problems in that the council positions are not full-time positions, and therefore council members are not present at city hall on a full time basis to supervise the city secretary. The committee reviewed the charters of other cities in Harris County and concluded that providing for the city secretary to report to the city manager, similar to the department heads of the city, would provide for a better organizational and management structure. This could be accomplished most sufficiently by listing the city secretary along with the city’s department heads in Section 6.02 of the Charter,” according to the report.

Charter Review Committee Chair Phyllis Cohen told that the committee took what other cities were doing into account and that their recommendation was unanimous.

According to the city’s charter history, West U voters did not approve a charter that adopted the current council-manager form of government until 1983.

West U had a problem with a city secretary during Mayor Bob Kelly’s time in office, which resulted in him signing a severance agreement.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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