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Controversial Galena Park contracts tabled without action by Council

GALENA PARK COUNCIL MEMBERS decided to table the two contracts that were on the Agenda of the Special Meeting called for Friday, May 29 at 3 p.m.
GALENA PARK COUNCIL MEMBERS decided to table the two contracts that were on the Agenda of the Special Meeting called for Friday, May 29 at 3 p.m.

GALENA PARK – A special Executive Session of the City Commission was called for Friday, May 29 at 3:00 p.m. for the purpose of “discussing personnel matters regarding an employment contract for the City Administrator and the Chief of Police.”

The impetus for the employment contracts had been the result of a negative vote in May on these two provisions in the City Charter Amendment election.

City Administrator Robert Pruett, and Chief of Police Jonathan Rader, believed that they should have an employment contract with the city that detailed their duties and authorities, their pay scale, and other employment terms such as vacation, personal time off, and termination. To date, their employment had been only at the resolution of the City Commission, as acted on at previous meetings.

It was felt by the two men that in lieu of a Charter Amendment calling for codification of their positions, that a formal contract would be advisable.

However, this action was not without controversy. Mayor Moya immediately said that the parties involved did not understand that the Charter election was a vote against their office holding, especially the articles referring to their positions. She noted that the public vote was 2 to1 against establishing these positions in the City Charter. As she had said since her election last May, the public wants a change in the administration of the city.

After reviewing a draft copy of the Employment Agreements, Moya pointed out that they were highly in favor of the employee, and not in the best interests of the city.

She specifically cited clauses in the contracts that called for a lengthy hearing process for terminations, a severance package of payments that start at almost a half-million dollars and reduce yearly over five years to a year’s base pay, and other benefits to the employees including car allowances, retirement benefits, insurance, and business expense reimbursements, on top of the guaranteed yearly salaries of $95,000 for the city administrator and $83,000 for the police chief.

In their proposed contracts, Pruett and Rader stated that these benefits, severance packages, and salaries are in line with what other cities pay, and the contracts are formatted in line with guidelines from the Texas Local Government Code. They said it was unreasonable to employee them in their capacities, without the guarantees included in these contracts.

The City Commission called their meeting to order at 3:00 p.m. and retired to Executive Session with City Attorney Jim DeFoyd. Mayor Moya declined to join them, although she is part of the Commission and entitled to participate in closed sessions.

During their deliberations, the Commission called Pruett and Rader to answer some questions.

After about an hour, they returned to the Council room, and went into public session. At that point, they announced they had taken no action on the Contracts.

Queried afterward, some Commission members said that they simply needed more time to study the provisions, and give it some thought.

The next regular Commission meeting was held on Tuesday, June 2 and the Agenda did not call for any action on these contracts.