WU Council to Consider Hiring Search Firm

August 21, 2015

The West University Place City Council will meet in executive session on Monday to discuss the compensation for Interim City Manager Chris Peifer and the selection of an executive search firm to hire a new city manager.

The council voted 3-2 two weeks ago to dismiss long-time City Manager Michael Ross, without cause and to pay Ross a severance package of more than $300,000. Ross’ employment with the city became an issue with recently elected council members Brennan Reilly, Bob Kelly and Burt Ballanfant, who voted for his termination. Mayor Susan Sample and City Council member Mardi Turner voted against Ross’ ouster.

The council members who wanted Ross to go said he had lost “the confidence” of the council. They were also critical of Ross’ handling of real estate negotiations last spring with the West University Baptist Church, when the city and the church were considering a land swap for a new Youth Center. The church pulled out of those negotiations just days after the new city council was elected.

The church has since applied for a special permit to build its new Youth Center on church-owned property on Amherst. That application is scheduled for consideration on Thursday, August 27, by the West U Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Peifer, who served as Assistant City Manager and Director of Public Works, was named Interim City Manager in the wake of Ross’ dismissal.

The council also will consider hiring an executive search firm to replace Ross.

And, the council will consider awarding a contract for group health insurance (medical, dental and vision) for the city’s employees. The city of West U participates in an inter-local agreement with the cities of Friendswood, Webster, and Dickinson, to spread the risks across a much larger group of employees.

The council will consider whether a staff recommendation to award the medical insurance contract to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, with a 6 percent increase in premium costs.

If the council chooses to award the contract to BCBSTX at the current benefit level with the 6% increase, the premiums would be only 3% more than the city of West U paid in 2011/2012.

Also on the council’s agenda is the appointment of West U residents to serve on a variety of boards and commissions. The council has been interviewing about 48 applicants for appointments to the Building and Standards Commission, the Zoning and Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Parks and Recreation Board, and the Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Board.