The Gonzales City Council approved all but one proposed city charter amendment during a special called meeting on Feb. 4. With approval, Measures A through F will appear on the May 1 election ballot.
Measure G, which was recommended by City Attorney Daniel Santee and Economic Development Corporation attorney Jeff Moore, was the only measure which was not approved by the council. This measure proposed that no members of the City Council nor Mayor of the city should be barred from serving on a nonprofit board or corporation, such as the Gonzales EDC. This was the only measure which did not receive unanimous approval, with a 4-1 vote. District 1 Councilman Gary A Schroeder, District 2 Councilman Tommy Schurig, District 3 Councilman Bobby O’Neal and District 4 Councilman Rob Brown all cast votes of “Aye” to reject the measure, while Mayor Connie Kacir voted “Nay.”
Mayor Kacir stated that the city would possibly be looking at a budget amendment related to the Elections line item, with a figure of $2,000 to $3,500 attached.
Hearing of residents
Members of the community spoke during the hearing of residents ahead of the council’s address of these measures, asking the council to remove Measure G. Donald Page, manager of the Alcalde Hotel, said he felt Measures A and G were in “direct conflict with each other.”
“I find it a little confusing for citizens knowing that, when they go to vote, A and G are in direct conflict with each other. I know it’s the matter of knowing non-profit and profit, but if they deny A, you can be on both boards, if they approve A and approve G, it’s like they said they don’t want you on any boards, and then they put you on non-for-profit boards. So being that that wasn’t on there, it never went through the hands of the committee that actually presented A through F to you, they never got a say on G, and that’s been brought in outside of that.”
Dale Schellenberg also spoke against measure G, referencing the wording of measure A disallowing members of the council from serving on city boards, commissions or other entities when qualified individuals have applied.
“I’ve seen it many times now that other qualified people are available for appointment, so let’s get on down here to measure G here that was added in,” Schellenberg said. “Let me give you some background here, the city council received a report from the Charter Review Commission at the Jan. 14, 2021 meeting. The ordinance ordered that the election is consistent with the City of Gonzales Charter and the Texas Election Code. Why was the Measure G not submitted Jan. 14, why was it not submitted then?”
Schellenberg alleged that the measure was created with a “specific agenda” in mind, asking the council who had created Measure G and when was it drafted. Schellenberg referenced former District 4 Councilman Dan Blakemore, who had been removed from the board when he was unseated during the most recent election, and then reappointed back to the board by the council. Critical of the city’s claim to transparency, Schellenberg stated that the city “deserved better than this under-the-table bureaucracy.”
Two letters were also submitted to be read as public comment, from Spaces Sublime owner and Gonzales resident Suzanne Young Zaitz and Gonzales resident Valorie Daniel. The letter from Zaitz asked that council members consider rejecting Measure G, as she feels Measure A “ensures proper checks and balances,” as well as concerns relating to alleged degrees of fairness. The letter from Daniel was concerned with the independence of recommendations from the Charter Review Commission, as well as alleging that the city is attempting to “correct wrongdoings,” specifically relating to the residence of the City Manager and City Attorney, by amending the charter.
Discussion by council
In discussion about the measures, which were considered individually by the council before being approved or rejected, Councilman Schroeder asked what would happen for the Mayor, who currently serves on the EDC board, if Measure A was approved by the citizenry in the May election. City Manager Tim Patek called the City Attorney, who said the rule would not immediately remove her from the board, rather, it would inform decision making for the next term.
In response to criticism of Measure G, Mayor Kacir said it had been added for consideration at the request of EDC President Andy Rodriguez.
“First and foremost, as far as the additional amendment being added, that was at the request of the GEDC President, Mr. Andy Rodriguez, and if you recall, he did speak to us at our last meeting,” Kacir said. “His concern was that the measure that addressed the EDC projects had not been taken to the EDC board for consideration. So his plea that evening was that we calmly consider postponing the adoption of those amendments until the EDC board could have input, which was what we voted unanimously to do.”
“Additionally, the EDC attorney, who is Mr. Jeff Moore, and Mr. Dan Santee met and discussed those measures, one that directly affected the EDC, and then the other one that affected Council, the Mayor and the Council serving on those boards.”
In other business:
Please click here to watch the Inquirer live stream of the Feb. 4 live stream of the City Council meeting.