Council evaluates city manager, secretary in open session review

What looked like a short agenda on paper turned into a two-hour review session Wednesday morning as the Brady City Council conducted its annual review of the city manager and city secretary. Without any need for adjournment into executive session, due to the fact that City Manager Merle Taylor and City Secretary Christi McAnally waived their option for a private annual evaluation, both reviews were conducted in open session. The items were placed on the previous meeting’s agenda; however, at the recommendation of Councilman Jesse Tate, it was tabled until a complete description of each job title could be obtained and reviewed by members of the council. Initially, Tate commented Wednesday that the council needed more time to review the job description and even suggested that it be tabled once again. With the reviews already up before the council a second time, Mayor James Stewart didn’t see the fairness is keeping two city employees in limbo’ wondering the outcome of an annual evaluation. Stewart stated that he would allow the item to be tabled again, provided that each member of the council “darkens the doorstep” at city hall to see these two people and personally view the various tasks they perform at least once a week. “You cannot effectively evaluate these two people without knowing what they do on a daily basis,” he told the group. “I may not come down here all the time, but if I feel the need to call Merle, I’ll call him,” said Councilman Ray Garza. “By being here just 10 minutes you can get a lot of information,” Stewart added. “I challenge you (the council) to 10 minutes’once a week’just to come in here and say hello. It’s amazing just the amount of information you can find out here. We owe it to the citizens to be involved as much as we can. “This is just my opinion, but I think the council, as a majority, has done a very poor job keeping up with the city. I am stating my opinion, and it’s just my opinion, but we cannot evaluate them objectively unless we see them in their element.” In referencing the previous meeting when the items were tabled, Tate noted, “All we had was airspace; nothing to go by. I think it’s only fair for Merle and the council to have something. It’s fair to both sides. We’ll probably never do a fair job as councilmen as we should and probably never will. I’m sorry, but I think we have to take care of the citizens’ complaints and comments. Some praise is needed, but don’t ever look for me to be the cheerleader on it.” With the reviews already in full discussion by the council, Stewart withdrew his offer to table the item and informed the council that it would go forward with the reviews Wednesday morning. “I’ve been through evaluations with school systems for over 35 years,” said Councilwoman Mary Bradshaw. “You base your appraisals on the job performance that they have done and what has been accomplished. I get a few complaints, but I get more positive comments.” With the council moving forward to conduct the evaluations, each took the time to complete a nine- question appraisal of both the city manager’s and city secretary’s quality of work based on a scale of: outstanding, very good, good, below average and unsatisfactory. In an overall performance evaluation, Taylor received very good ratings with some areas of improvement recommended. “There is always room for improvement, but overall, I think Merle is doing very good,” said Stewart, “and he works to have an open door policy.” “I have been here a very long time observing city managers and what’s going on, and Merle has dug us out of trouble before, and I believe we have the best person for the job,” said Mrs. Bradshaw. In commenting on areas in need of improvement, both Stewart and Tate suggested that the city manager should spend more time visiting with local businesses as a method of public relations. “Just as city manager, it would improve the communication between the citizens and our city government to see him out there among the community,” Stewart commented. Mrs. Bradshaw, who gave high marks to both city officials in their respective reviews, stated, “To me, outstanding does not mean perfect. We had one perfect person in this world, and I don’t think we’ll ever have another one.” Tate’s suggestion for improvement was that the council get to review the city manager’s reports of supervision on both department heads and supervisors and that Taylor be more thorough in following up with citizens complaints or questions. After the council wrapped up its evaluation of Taylor, he spoke directly to the council and asked that they consider approving a raise for his position. He noted that, in a 51-city review conducted throughout the state, the average annual salary for a city manager is $85,000 (his current rate of pay, which received a 10 percent increase this fiscal year, is around $75,000. With 14 years with the City of Brady, including eight as city manager, Taylor spoke about the difficulty of rebuilding the city’s financial status over the past several years. “It has been a tremendous challenge, and I appreciate the council’s support, but I would like to see something closer to the annual salary of those 51-cities surveyed.” Trying to move on with other business, Stewart suggested it be put on the next agenda; however, Garza felt it was unnecessary because overall there was a 10 percent overall increase approved just recently and a 15 percent increase for emergency response personnel (EMS, police department and fire department). He stated that he didn’t believe that the council needed to give Taylor another five or eight percent in salary increase due to the fact that he just received a 10 percent hike. Again, Stewart suggested that it be brought back to the council during the next meeting so that all questions and concerns cold be addressed. In an overall performance evaluation for the city secretary, yet another very good rating was awarded. Like with Taylor, it was suggested that areas of improvement could be made in helping with citizens concerns and document requests. “I have always given out all open records requests that are allowed by law,” she told the council. “I’ve never refused anything that was legally allowed to be given out. I try to treat everyone like they would want to be treated.” The general consensus expressed during the meeting was that both city employees were qualified and performed their job duties to the best of their abilities. “Our job is not always a popularity contest,” said Taylor. There are a lot of decisions that have to be made’sometimes based on facts. These open records are one of the biggest liabilities the city has.” Moving on to regular business on the agenda for action, the council voted to reschedule the Oct. 17 meeting for Monday, Oct. 15 at 10 a.m. Members of the council will be attending the annual Texas Midwest Community Network annual meeting in Abilene on Wednesday prompting the change of meeting date for the council. Also, the current Housing Authority commissioners for the City of Brady, Grant Evridge, Betty Brown and Julie Rodriguez were approved for re- appointment. All three individuals expressed an interest to remain serving the city as representatives on the board. As the next item up for consideration, the council voted to approve Stewart’s appointment of Mrs. Bradshaw to serve as interim mayor pro-tem in the absence of Councilman Billy Patterson, who is still undergoing rehabilitation in San Angelo. Stewart stated that the action was necessary because a mayor pro-tem signature is sometimes required on city documents. Mrs. Bradshaw agreed to fill the vacancy until Patterson’s return. As the only ordinance on the agenda, the council discussed the EMS agreement between the city and hospital district. The item has been in the works since early spring, and continues to be a hot topic for not only the city and hospital district but the county as well. “They (the county) are still participating, but in discussions with the county, we decided to continue working with the county and simply provide services for a fee.” Stewart explained that a separate interlocal agreement will be addressed between the city and the county for services rendered, one that is already in place and includes fire and EMS services. In approving the ordinance Wednesday, the council made the first step in agreeing to accept the $70,000 financial contribution (with an eight percent annual increase) from the hospital district. Included in the agreement is a clause that will give either party the authority to cancel the contract at any time with proper notice. The item will go up before the council for a second and final approval when the group meets Oct. 15. With no other formal action required, the meeting was officially adjourned.

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