Tuesday, September 05, 2017

City Council Booted Railway Museum and Deliberated Budget Public Hearing Behind Closed Doors

San Angelo's City Council looked secretive and unwilling to share the most basic deliberations in today's meeting.  The Executive Session agenda had two items where Council took action but shared no information.  The first involved real property at 703 S. Chadbourne..

b. Section 551.072 Deliberations about Real Property regarding 703 S. Chadbourne 

c. Section 551.071(2) consultation with attorney regarding 703 S. Chadbourne 
Council returned to public session and voted not to renew the lease at 703 S. Chadbourne.  The City  never identified the current occupant in the agenda or council discussion.  That is not honesty or transparency.

Railway Museum Board President David Wood heard about the move and cancelled two doctor appointments to attend.  His testimony informed the public watching live, not City Council or staff.  Wood offered public comment expressing his dismay at the turn of events.  When asked why, i.e. what were council's deliberations, Wood was told that information was under attorney-client privilege.

City Council hid behind attorney client privilege only to have staff produce a slick, scripted press release on the matter.  The press release quoted the same City Attorney who told Mr. Wood the reasons were confidential.  She did not hesitate to share information on Council's decision via news release.

City Council is the accountable body and it should not hide behind attorney-client privilege.  It should not delegate its responsibility to inform the public to a press release.  City Council held deliberations and took a vote in a public meeting.  They need to state the reasons for their action, which cancelled the Railway Museum's lease ten days before it is due to expire.

Oddly, staff moved the mandatory public hearing on the 2017-2018 budget to executive session from the public agenda.  The following item was moved after a nearly two minute silence. 

e.  Discussion and consideration of matters related to the fiscal year 2017‐2018 operating budget including:

1. First public hearing and introduction of an ordinance of the City of San Angelo approving and adopting the budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2017, and ending September 30, 2018. This budget will raise more total property taxes than last year’s budget by $1,540,425 (4.29%), and of that amount, $635,425 is tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year.

2. Conduct a separate record vote to ratify the property tax revenue increase reflected in the budget and place the adoption of this tax rate on the agenda for the September 5, 2017 regular meeting of the City Council as an action item. (T. Dierschke)
It's hard to vote and put the item on the agenda for September 5th when it is September 5th.  The shift to executive session was likely a procedural move due to poor planning.   However, it would be interesting to hear deliberations from Council on an item intended for the public to hear and make comments.  Citizens did not get that opportunity.

Mayor Brenda Gunther and City Council looked off step on the budget item and mean spirited on the Railway Museum.  They serve the public and should not hide behind staff.  Deliberations, even procedural ones, should be shared. 

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