New policy restricts vehicles to city limits
BY PHIL REYNOLDS
SOUTH JETTY REPORTER
After two closed-door sessions that took up nearly one-third of a marathon council session, city council members on Thursday, Sept. 20, promulgated a city vehicle policy that will result in emergency response vehicles staying within the city limits except when being used for city business.
The debate grew out of a suggestion earlier this year that no city employees should be allowed to drive vehicles home when they live outside the city.
That would affect three city employees - police Lt. Darryl Johnson, who drove a police car home every other month when on call; Operations Division head Crockett Moreno, who lives in Gregory; and Gas Division head Mitch Ortiz, who lives in Corpus Christi.
Thursday, the council emptied the chamber for more than an hour to discuss the matter of whether Ortiz should be offered compensation for loss of the vehicle - and if so, how much.
The executive, or closed, session was called under the section of the Texas Open Meetings Law that allows city councils or other similar bodies to discuss personnel matters. The law reads, "This chapter does not require a governmental body to conduct an open meeting:
(1) to deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of a public officer or employee; or
(2) to hear a complaint or charge against an officer or employee."
City Attorney Mike Morris told the South Jetty that the law applies because the council was discussing how withdrawal of trashResidents the vehicle would affect Ortiz's duties.
Back in open session, Councilman Bubba Jensen moved that all city vehicles be kept within city limits so they can properly respond to emergency situations, and added that the city should compensate the gas supervisor by allotting a $400 per month car allowance.
Then, Jensen said he miscalculated, and amended the motion to read that compensation shall be as decided by the city manager.
"For the record, that's $425 per month," noted Morris.
"And for a limit of six months," Jensen added.
"Would you consider $725?" Councilman Charles Bujan asked.
"No," Jensen said. "I've made a motion in line with the recommendation of the city manager, which was $425 a month, and I'd like to continue for six months to give that person a chance to get on his feet."
Councilman Keith Donley seconded the motion, but before taking a vote, the council went back behind closed doors for more discussion. When it returned, Jensen amended his motion to make the compensation last a year instead of six months.
Jensen, Donley and Mayor Claude Brown voted in favor; councilmen Rick Pratt, Mike Hall, Keith McMullin and Bujan voted no, causing the motion to fail.
Donley then moved to raise the compensation to $550 per month for a year. He, Bujan, Brown and Jensen voted yes, overriding the "no" votes of McMullin, Hall and Pratt.
The council did not discuss compensation for Johnson or
Moreno. Ortiz was pinpointed for discussion because he was hired with the
understanding he would have the use of a city vehicle.