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GALENA PARK CITY COMMISSION: Council excludes citizen comments

ROBERT COLLINS, Galena Park City Attorney
ROBERT COLLINS, Galena Park City Attorney

GALENA PARK — Mayor Esmeralda Moya continues to mold the city government into her own rules, as evidenced by actions at last Tuesday’s Commission meeting.

Greeting the audience in English and Spanish, she then asked the city attorney, Robert Collins, to explain why citizens would no longer be able to bring up their own interests in a public comment period.

According to Collins, the Open Meetings Act says all business of the Commision must be on the written Agenda, with no other comments allowed. His reasoning was that this protected citizens who were not present or not knowledgeable about what would be discussed. He suggested “workshops” as an alternative for citizens to express themselves.

Although it was not discussed officially by the Commission, citizens outside the meeting were distributing flyers questioning why the attorney had presented an invoice of $26,000 for 7 days work. Collins told the North Channel Star that $19,000 of this was for “investigations” but declined to elaborate on what was being investigated. Collins also introduced another attorney, Dennis Houfek, who is aiding him in the investigations. Houfek was once an FBI agent, Collins noted.

The Commission acted on several items, including an amendment to an ordinance that substituted the word Mayor for all references to City Administrator, consolidating all “duties and powers of the Mayor… with the City Administrator.”

In a discussion on a proposed resolution amending the current budget, Commissioner Broussard asked for $49,000 to spend on the Galena Manor community building, namely the Evelyn Churchill building. Broussard said that the building was in extremely poor condition, needing immediate work. Commissioner Ponder questioned why to spend money on a building that some felt should be torn down. Mayor Moya said that she was committed to repairing or replacing the Churchill building, but felt that it could wait for the next budget year, which starts in two months.

In a break in the previous unanimous feeling among the commissioners, they voted 3 to 2 to leave the item for the next budget year.