Tense meeting for Charlotte

Minutes from the June 8 Meeting

A fiery Charlotte City Council meeting was held on Thursday, June 8 with council members Christi Rankin pl. 1; Patty Garza, pl. 2; John Heiligman, pl.4 and Mayor Anna Estrada present.

After the invocation and pledges of allegiance were citizen’s comments. The first person signed up to speak was former Charlotte Public Librarian Raeven Cruz.

Cruz expressed her disappointment in an article regarding the library. Cruz stated that she felt the article suggested she was to blame for the potential loss of accreditation the Charlotte Library is at risk for loosing because state paperwork had not been completed.

She stated that the reports were impossible to fill out for someone employed for a mere six month. She said she had previously expressed the need for help with the documents but there was never follow through with help.

She said her time working with the city was an unpleasant one and said that she had put her resignation in 5 weeks before the documentation was due. She asked that the mayor set the record straight with the Pleasanton Express.

After the next citizens comment the mayor said, “I do have a comment, always remember that a lot of the things that are stated on the internet or on [sic] journalism is not always accurate. Just like our president says ‘fake news’ you know, but just remember that before anyone gets upset always go and talk to that person and see and find out what actually happened. But a lot of times the way internet is portrayed or journalism is portrayed a lot of times it’s not correct. They have to sell the news, they have to sell the papers, they have to sell the media, so just be aware of that.”

The mayor then moved on to item number 6, consider and approve all payable in the water and general fund. City Secretary Gracie Garcia informed the council of a small change that she was unable to inform them of before. Rankin moved to approve and the motion was seconded by Garza. The council went on to approve to pay payables. The mayor then asked that an addition be made in the minutes of the May 11 regular council meeting. That was approved. They also approved item number 9 to participate in the Atascosa County Hazardous Mitigation Grant.

The next item on the agenda was to consider and approve a resolution awarding Randy Malouf Builders (RM Quality Construction) the Building Contractor Award for the home Program through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

The next item on the agenda was to consider and approve appointing a city laborer as an Animal Control Officer. Rankin stated she felt that the position should be opened and let someone apply. Estrada stated it should be someone employed by the city. It was then discussed that the person would need to be certified. Further discussion was made to talk with city employees to find out who is interested and what training would need to be done. Public Works director Jorge Zuniga recommended having two people for the position in case someone was out sick or on vacation.

Mayor Estrada then said this item would be tabled.

Item number 12 to consider and approve the hiring of a full-time laborer. Estrada stated she recommends Tracy Zuniga for the position since it is for a full-time position. She said that City Secretary Garcia and Public Works Director Jorge Zuniga have already interviewed. They had eight applicants, five were interviewed. Estrada said she asked that they narrow it down to three. Again she stated her recommendation was Tracy Zuniga. Rankin asked if they had made a choice of order for their top three. Garcia stated that they had not. They then discussed money and what was being asked for. Rankin stated she felt a laborer shouldn’t make a large salary. The mayor said that salary was negotiable and he is a hard worker. Garza agreed that he is a hard worker but can’t see him deciding to stay for the amount they would pay. She stated then they would be going through the whole process again. Rankin suggested tabling the item. Estrada indicated the item needed to be taken care of then. Rankin said they needed to consider what the interviewers thought and felt they didn’t have enough information to make a decision. Estrada then asked Jorge who he recommends. Zuniga remained silent and Garza stated that would be nepotism if Jorge recommended Tracy since they are related. The mayor asked how that would be nepotism. Garza went on to state interviewing for a job with a family member is nepotism. Jorge said that he interviewed Tracy and felt he is qualified, but his hands are tied since they are related. The mayor said that nepotism is if the person being interviewed were related to someone on the council such as herself. A small argument ensued and the Mayor said, “Let’s just go ahead and table it. I will get attorney guidance.”

She then went on to say, “That’s what I mean about being prepared if this is the way it’s always going to be...” Rankin then said, “No this is not how it’s going to be. It’s always your way, it’s never gone the right way.” The pair continued to argue with the Mayor stating this is how it would be until the city adopts policy. Rankin retorted, “Thank you, what do think I have been trying to do? Move to the next item.” Estrada said, “This is my agenda so when we are ready to go to the next item I will follow through.”

She then moved on to the next item without a motion or approval. The following item was on a season laborer. They discussed who the applicant is and his age. Wilson made a motion to hire Juan Perez for the position of season laborer for the summer, June 1-August 31. The motion was seconded by Heiligman, motion carried.

The next item on the agenda was discussion of and action on changing job description for water/sewer laborer, into two different classifications because of one of them needed a high school diploma or GED. After discussion where council members stated they were confused Rankin recommended to table it until research had been done. Estrada stated she has already done the research. Rankin asked for the paper, Estrada stated it had been copied and given to everyone. Rankin said she hadn’t received one. Laura Morales searched for the paper to give to Rankin. It was discussed that she hadn’t received her packet because she had planned to be out of town. Heiligman said, “Can we table it?” Estrada said we will go ahead and table it and move to item 16, apparently skipping item number 15, Discussion and Action on a Social media policy.

Item 16 was Discussion of and Action on dog ordinance for the City of Charlotte. Estrada stated that Henry Dominguez with the Animal Control Facility in Jourdanton was adamant that the dog ordinance be the same as the county. She wanted to table the item. Rankin said she took bits and pieces of the dog ordinance from the county shelter to make the one in the packet and there was no reason to table the item, “There’s nothing wrong with that dog ordinance,” Rankin said. Estrada said it can be put in place and amendments can be made in the future if necessary. Garza moved to pass the dog ordinance, motion carried.

Council members then noticed that the mayor skipped item number 15.

Item number 17, discussion of and action on the platting for the new city library. There was no information available. The mayor once again moved on to the next agenda item without a motion.

Item number 18 was the discussion of and action on setting an ordinance for requirements on becoming a City Council Member . The mayor said that since the city has no policy in place for that and she felt that the state would be where to get the guidelines for this. Rankin stated that she was under the impression the city followed state guidelines, Estrada said the city is not or there would be a position vacated (in reference to council member Mark Wilson who no longer resides in the city limits). Rankin said she would need to look into that because she didn’t think that was right.

The mayor stated that there needed to be workshops and training. She did not say in reference to what. She once again moved to item number 19 without a motion.

Item number 19 was Accepting City Council member Zoraida Casares, place 1 resignation. A motion was made by Rankin and seconded by Garza to accept the resignation.

Item number 20 was to consider and approve an amendment to he harassment section of the Employee Handbook. Mark Wilson asked if that was even an issue. Rankin answered yes it was, the mayor said no it isn’t. They each repeated themselves and Rankin went on to say some things have been brought up and that she had been in long discussion with the attorney and she recommended adding to the handbook. The only thing in the handbook about harassment is regarding sexual harassment. It does not touch on hostile work environments or other types of harassment. Rankin amended the handbook to explain the part of the handbook regarding harassment. She said, “Not only to protect our employees but the City of Charlotte.” Discussion on the benefits of the amendment followed. Heiligman made a motion to approve the item, it was seconded by Garza. The mayor then asked if something can be put in on dissension. Wilson asked, “What is dissension?” She answered, “It’s just when you go in here and you start, it works with harassment as well.” Rankin said amendments could be made.

Item number 20 was regarding an amendment dealing with employee pay advancements. Rankin stated that amendment to the handbook section 4.07 added a pay advance section to employees who have been with the city for a certain length of time in good standing. She went on to read the specifics of the amendments. Rankin said things come up and she has no problem with letting city employees receive an advance if needed and guidelines are met. Estrada argued that the lawyer stated that services needed to be rendered. After some discussion she said, “See that’s what I am talking about, the wishy-washy guidance when it comes to legal guidance because she tells me, ‘no we can not give a pay advance’ when I was approached once.” Rankin said, “She tells me it’s all up to the city council.”

“So again she tells you one thing and she tells me another...We have gotten so much mis-guidance,” said Estrada.

Rankin said the lawyer is just a guidance, that the council can do with the city money what they see fit to do with the city money and that an advance would not be illegal. “If we have an employee who is desperate and needs help, we as a city should step up and help that employee if we are able to do it.” Estrada said it should be tabled and her and Rankin should get with the lawyer together. Rankin said, “I know what she tells me, I don’t know what she tells you. This is what we came up with, so y’all make a decision.” Garza said it would be another month before it could be discussed again and what if an employee needed an advance before then. The mayor said that’s when Charlotte pulls through and always has for citizens in need. Estrada again stated she would rather have the lawyer speak to them both, but that she would not allow a citizen of Charlotte fall and she said fundraisers are always available. Rankin stated that tabling it and getting with the lawyer would be fine.

The following item on the agenda was consider and approve amending the employee handbook section dealing with the hiring, firing and discipline of employees. Rankin brought up that in October it was decided to have a panel, but that was never followed through with, including the hiring of the librarian. She stated that she was able to see the librarian information, but wasn’t part of the interview process. She said in reference to the applicants for the labor job, she knows Tracy Zuniga very well, but she doesn’t know the other two. “You’re throwing three applicants out here. I know Tracy very well, I don’t know the other two. I’m not going to pick an applicant when I don’t even know who these people are. To throw that to us is not very fair.” She stated that the amendment to the handbook would set a way to handle hiring and firing. She said she went through the handbook and broke it down by section. The mayor asked if it went through state statute and Rankin said yes

Heiligman motioned to approve amending the Employee Handbook section dealing with hiring, firing and discipline of employees. It was seconded by Wilson. The mayor said the updates need to have the appropriate dates added. Motion carried.

Rankin said that after discussion with the lawyer and realizing much of the problem is the handbook. Williams recommended more detailed job descriptions because there have been issues where people have micromanaged other people’s jobs. Rankin went through various city handbooks to come up with the appropriate job descriptions. She stated that all employees ultimately report to the city council and they make the decisions. The mayor asked, “Who is the city council?” “Us,” said Rankin indicating the council members present. Rankin said that this should alleviate some of the issues that have been brought to her attention. The mayor asked what. Rankin stated, “Micromanaging.” The mayor then said, “I know that some issues have been come up to me as well as far as micromanaging. I know that I have a job. A full time job. When I am a little late, or if I don’t show up for a reason, I get counseled. Simple as that. They have every right to. I work for them. When high absenteeism is a problem, as a supervisor, as a CEO of this community, as an elected official of this community, it is my responsibility to take care of the taxpayers money. It’s just, hey you should show up to work.” Rankin countered, “But that’s not your job. That should be Jorge’s job. Jorge is in charge of the workers.” Arguing took place with the Mayor saying it is her authority to handle personnel problems. She said no one has accountability. She said that’s not micromanaging that is a supervisor telling somebody to do their job. Rankin said, “But ultimate decisions come to the council. The problem is your making decisions and you are not consulting with the city council.”

“I am making decisions per my authority as an elected official,” the mayor said.

“You are an elected official. You are not the supervisor of the city,” Rankin countered.

The two continued back and forth with the mayor saying, “I am the CEO of the city.”

“According to whom?”

“The state of Texas.”

“Pull it up for me because what I have found out is that it’s really based on what the city council wants to do.”

“There’s nothing.”

“There’s going to be something. My problem is that you aren’t letting others do their jobs.”

“They’re not doing their jobs.”

“Why are they not? Why is that stuff not brought to our attention?”

“It will be because like I said, I spoke with Jameene (lawyer) today and she told me what my authority was and what I needed to do to let our council know of future, or things that are happening now of like some employees falling asleep at work. Just things like that. Like people not being at their place of business. That will come up to you. I will start notifying you. That’s my problem that I didn’t do that. I’m learning. That’s where the break in communication is. My position is to deal with personnel matters.”

Rankin chimed in, “Actually it’s not.” Estrada argued and Rankin said she would discuss it further with the city attorney. After some bickering Estrada said, “So just for the record right now the city council is the one that does everything? There’s no purpose for electing a mayor, just FYI.” She then asked for a motion to approve the job descriptions. Garza made the motion and it was seconded by Heiligman.

Reports were then given.