Nixon City Council members approved new employment contracts for City Manager Harold Rice, City Secretary Tanya Torres, City Attorney Eddie Escobedo and Police Chief Miguel Cantu following a lengthy executive session Tuesday, March 7, at City Hall.
Terms and conditions of the contracts approved by the council were not immediately available from the city as of press time; however, during the meeting, Escobedo said the council would not be making any adjustments.
“There’s no change to any of that stuff,” Escobedo said. “If you’re asking if there is an upward adjustment to salary, we can’t do any of those things. All of that stuff has already been budgeted; this is just ratifying what has already been done.”
During discussion earlier in the evening, one citizen asked why the need to discuss the four contracts at all and why it couldn’t be done without going into an executive session.
“I’m just trying to figure out what is going on with contracts,” said Briana Dominguez. “I know, like many others, when you are hired by an entity, you are given a contract right then. Why are we waiting until this day to sign a contract and why are not being (forthright) with the community?
“We are your constituents. We elect all of you. We pay for salaries, so let’s discuss it out in public. Let’s not leave into executive session which, knowing how long executive session will last tonight, people have to get home and get ready for the next day’s work. Our voices need to be heard and all of you need to be honest with us and tell us what is going on, why are we signing contracts in the middle of the year?”
“Shouldn’t you be signing contracts when budget is done, that way we know what our salaries are going to be? It seems like something is being hidden; it doesn’t seem right. I’m just asking for transparency from the council,” Briana Dominguez added.
“There’s nowhere in history that we ever had any contracts with anyone,” Mayor Pro Tem Justin LaFleur answered. “The chief of police wanted one a year and a half, two years ago, and it fell by the wayside. We never did it so to protect the city on liability — for any reason, someone might want to get inspired to sue us — that’s the reason. They never had any before. It didn’t exist.
“The problem is when you talk personnel, there’s privacy laws that we can’t talk about. It’s not that we’re trying to hide it.”
Council discussed the contracts in an 86-minute executive session, along with other items regarding rules and regulations for on-site sewage facilities for both Gonzales and Wilson counties in the areas outside existing city limits that are annexed into the city, including the possibility of providing septic systems to a development in Wilson County, as well as potential changes to the city’s mobile home ordinance.
When the council returned from executive session, Councilwoman Ellie Dominguez moved that the council table the items until next month so she could have “the full time allowed to review the contracts.” Councilwoman Maggie Gaytan seconded the motion and both voted in favor of tabling.
LaFleur and Councilman Rene Amaya voted against the motion and Mayor Dorothy Riojas broke the tie by voting against the motion as well, saying “I do not want to table.”
Then, LaFleur made the motion to approve the employment contracts of all four positions, which Amaya seconded. The motion passed, 3-1, with LaFleur, Amaya and Gaytan voting in favor, and Councilwoman Dominguez made sure her colleagues knew of her opposition.
“I did not have ample time to look at these. I was handed the city attorney’s (contract) as we got here. I fully disagree with this,” she said.