The most recent decision by Mayor Meyers has her and the city heading into possible legal waters over the separation of employment with City Administrator Matt McCombs.
The official position from the city is that the council is negotiating the terms of the separation with McCombs but multiple council members, including Councilman Jeff Perry, have expressed that not only are they not participating in the negotiations, they were not aware that it would be anything more than a request for a resignation letter. They were surprised when they received notice on Wednesday that he had been terminated. Perry believes that the Mayor has “overstepped her authority during this process” and has requested additional information from the City Attorney as to how this happened.
Instead, what Meyers acted upon is what is considered a walking quorum as described by several other municipal attorneys, as well an attorney with the Texas Attorney General’s office.
As Alan Lanthrom from the law firm of Brown & Hofmeister, LLP writes from 2012, “A walking quorum occurs when members of a governmental body meet in a series of meetings in person or via phone… in numbers less than a quorum to discuss public business”. He goes on to state that “When a majority of a public decision-making body is considering a pending issue, there can be no “informal” discussion under the Act. There is either formal consideration of a matter in compliance with the Act or an illegal meeting.”
Instead of putting this item on the council agenda as is normal and proper, Mayor Meyers committed the walking quorum violation by making consecutive calls on Monday, May 5 asking multiple members of council if they would support her request in asking for McCombs’ resignation. Councilman Perry said that while he consented to the request for a “resignation letter” that “it was NOT an official vote” and he “definitely didn’t consent to termination or an offer of a contract buyout and the significant financial expenditure that represented”. He expected this item to be placed on future agenda for the entire elected body to discuss and act. Perry would not talk publicly about McCombs performance because he said, “It’s a personnel matter, which is confidential, and has no bearing on how this situation has developed.”
Mayor Meyers replied by text message to a phone call request for an interview with the following statement. “My actions were directed my legal council and his advice was followed without deviation. I have nothing more to add.”
If the Mayor’s action was unauthorized, what is the status of McCombs’ employment with the city? According to one attorney we talked to it is entirely possible that he is still legally employed by the city and the only way for his status to change is for the council to meet and vote on the issue.
According to one attorney we spoke with, if Mayor Meyers actions were illegal, she could be facing criminal charges for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. When asked about these serious allegations, Mayor Meyers didn’t respond.
A special meeting has been scheduled for this Thursday to deal with the employment issues relating to McCombs. Missing from the agenda for this special meeting is citizens’ opportunity to speak.