City Council restores Mayor’s power to terminate department heads

The Italy City Council met for their regular June meeting on Monday night. Among the agenda items was to elect a Mayor Pro Tem. In a unanimous vote, Franky Jackson was elected as the new Mayor Pro Tem.

Mayor Cate appointed the following commissioners to specific departments:

Carl Cash – Sanitation
Paul Cockerham – Public Works/Streets
Stevan Varner – Administration
Gene Williams – Police/Fire

In a previous meeting, the council voted to remove the Mayor’s power to terminate department heads.

“We are a strong mayor city,” Paul Cockerham began. “We need to restore the Mayor’s powers that were taken away by the previous council. If he terminates a department head, they have the right to come before the council, so the final decision rests with the council. We need to give the mayor back the power he deserves.”

“If a department head needs to be terminated, I would write them up first and put them on paid administrative leave before I terminated them,” said J.D. Cate. “I am not saying I want or don’t want the power back.”

Carl Cash said they voted to take the power away from the mayor. He said this would give the council more input on terminations. He also said it would keep communication open between the council and mayor.

“I believe the Mayor needs to be accountable,” Stevan Varner said.

“Italy is a Type A General Law City. The power needs to go back like it was before,” Jackson stated.

Gene Williams stated he did not see why the mayor shouldn’t have the power to terminate a department head.

The item passed with Cockerham, Williams and Jackson voting yes and Cash and Varner voting no.

The council also discussed providing a process for hiring department heads. Carl Cash said he liked the process they used when they hired Mike Taylor as the Police Chief when the council conducted the interviews and made the decision. Frank Jackson stated he felt the citizens should be involved in the process. They postponed this until further information would be available.

Alisha Wickens addressed the council on behalf of Bertie Bell regarding a lien placed on Bell’s house by Bircher Construction. Bell was approved for a portion of a Block Grant through the City of Italy to remodel and update her home. Bircher Construction was awarded the $29,527.05 contract. They did not finish the work in the time alloted and were given a 9 day extension. They were paid $7,920.99 for the partial work done. The contract with them was terminated on April 4, 2015.

The City then hired Black Diamond to complete the project at a cost of $16,842.95.

As a result of this, Bircher filed an affidavit of lien for $21,606 against Ms. Bell’s house. The city attorney, Ed Voss, began legal action on behalf of the City and Ms. Bell. Mediation was held on November 2, 2015 and Bircher was ordered to pay the city $16,842.95, $5,000 to Bell and the immediate removal of the lien.

Bircher failed to comply with the court’s order. When the City hired Brandon Shelby as their attorney, Mr. Voss forwarded all documents to him. Mrs. Bell has been waiting for almost two years for something to be done. Steven Farmer, Carl Cash and Paul Shearin tried but were unable to get Mr. Shelby to take care of this issue.

“I have called Mr. Shelby 2 or 3 times regarding this and he has not returned my calls,” said Cash. “This needs to be taken care of. If we need to hire a special attorney to take care of this matter then that is what we need to do.”

It was stated that the contract with Mr. Shelby as City Attorney is month to month. (City financial records show Shelby is paid $4,000 each month.)

After discussion, the council voted for Mayor Cate to contact Ed Voss or another attorney if necessary to do whatever is necessary to get the lien removed from Ms. Bell’s house.

The council passed a resolution allowing the Mayor and council members to perform service as a volunteer member of the ESD 3/Italy Fire Department.

Shawn Holden, Public Works Director, told the council there needs to be a policy for jetting sewer clean-outs on private property.

“Citizens have called wanting us to do this on private property and we have done that in the past. We need to only do this on our side not on their private property because it is a liability for the City.”

An ordinance will be created to cover jetting sewer clean-outs.

The council postponed action regarding mowing and maintenance of city easements on private property.

The council also discussed the status of the property at 213 Poplar Street. The Christian Church was donated to the City several years ago to be used as a museum. In the past the council voted to sell the building at auction but never proceeded to do so. An organization from Midlothian contacted the city previously regarding moving the church.

Varner said he thought it needs to be torn down. Cash said it would be costly to do that. He said the dumpster and crew would cost a lot of money.

After discussion, the council voted to rescind the previous vote to sell the building at auction.

Mike Brown with Government Capital Securities addressed the council regarding authorizing the issuance and sale of General Obligation Refunding Bonds in an aggregate maximum principal amount not to exceed $3,800,000. This is a 2007 tax and revenue bond that would mature in 2032. He said that the city only has 15 years left on the bond. He explained the city should be able to get a cheaper interest on the bond to save as much as $633,000. The council unanimously approved this.

Logan Potter addressed the council with a request to close a portion of Price Street and allow for purchase of the easement. This item was postponed until Mr. Potter can furnish a survey to the City.

Melanie Terrell with HILCO Civil & Event Center addressed the council with information about the center. The 18,745 square feet venue is located in Itasca and will be open in September of this year. It can accommodate 1,040 people banquet style. It will be open to vendors for catering, florist, bands and more.

The council approved an Interlocal Agreement with the City of Frisco to purchase police uniforms and equipment to save money for the City.

A council workshop was set for June 19, 2017 at 6:00. All citizens are encouraged and invited to attend.

During council comments, Paul Cockerham said he turned in his letter of resignation because his wife, Ronda and he are moving to East Texas. Cate thanked him for his 3 years service on the council.