Port Aransas voters soon may be asked to decide how their leaders handles certain city financial situations and potential conflict-of-interest issues.
Voters also could decide how the city council should go about making inquiries into the official conduct of city employees, if such a thing is needed in the future.
At its next meeting the Port Aransas City Council might consider passing a resolution to put a matter on the May 10 election ballot in which voters could make five amendments to the city charter. The council meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at council chambers in city hall, 710 W. Ave. A.
The city’s Charter Review Commission on Nov. 29 voted to recommend that the five proposed amendments be presented to voters.
The commission members are Charlie Zahn, Jim Atwill, Chuck Borders, Betty Turner, Charles Ray and alternate Betsy Churgai. Zahn is the chairman.
The city charter requires that a commission be appointed by the city council every four years to make recommendations on whether the charter needs changes to keep up with the needs of the town.
Following is how the council’s proposed resolution words the amendments proposed by the commission.
Proposition One: Shall Article III, Section 15 be amended by re-titling it and to provide that city council inquiries into the official conduct of departments, agencies, offices, officers and employees who or which are under the control of the city manager must be directed to the manager?
Currently, if a council member doesn’t think a city employee is doing his or her job right, the charter doesn’t clearly prevent the council member from going directly to the employee and making inquiries, according to Zahn.
State law says council members should direct their inquiries through the city manager, and the city’s charter should be consistent with that, Zahn said.
“What you don’t want is individual council members with their own agendas going to employees and directing them on how to do their jobs” Zahn said. “That is the city manager’s job. You don’t want employees to have seven different bosses with seven different agendas.”
Proposition Two: Shall Article IV, Section 1 (e)(7) be amended to allow additional time, not to exceed six months after the end of the city’s fiscal year, for the audit to be presented to the council?
The charter currently says the city manager must submit an annual report on the city’s finances and administrative activities within 90 days of the end of the fiscal year. But city workers have said they need more time than that, Zahn said.
Proposition Three: Shall Article VII, Section 3(a) be amended to provide for the proposed budget to include the use of reserve funds, provided however that the proposed budget shall always provide for reserves equal, at minimum, to 25 percent of the proposed budget?
This amendment would give the city more freedom in how it uses surplus funds found within a current year’s budget, Zahn said.
For example, if the city budgets, say, $500,000 for street work but ends up not needing to spend $10,000 of that for streets, the amendment would allow the city to use the $10,000 for something else during the same fiscal year, as long as there’s a super majority vote of at least five council members agreeing to it.
The way the charter is worded right now, that leftover money would have had to go into the city’s reserve funds and wouldn’t be available for spending until the following fiscal year, Zahn said.
Proposition Four: Shall Article VII, Section 4(a) be amended to provide for a supplemental non-budgeted appropriation for the use of reserve funds, provided however that the budget shall always retain reserves equal, at a minimum, to 25 percent of the current fiscal year’s budget?
This proposition is similar to Proposition Three. The difference is that this one has to do with non-budgeted windfalls, rather than money that already is in the budget.
Zahn offered this example: The city creates a budget that allows for spending up to only a certain amount of money in sales tax revenue. But what if the city ends up getting more such revenue than it expected?
As it’s currently written, the charter won’t allow that “extra” money to be spent during the current budget yet. It would have to go to reserves for possible future use. But, if Proposition Four is approved by voters, the city would be allowed to spend the money during the same fiscal year.
Proposition Five: Shall Article VII, Section 5 regarding conflicts be changed to provide exceptions where it is in the best interest of the city and to define the word “officer” to mean only the council and manager? (Council members, the manager and other officials of the city remain subject to state law conflicts rules.)
Right now, the charter says that neither the city manager nor council members nor city employees may have financial interests in any contract with the city or in the sale to the city of land, materials or services.
The proposed amendment would allow situations in which council members or the city manager discloses his or her interest to the city council as soon as the official becomes aware of it. The matter would have to be placed before the council, and the council would have to decide it’s in the best interest of the city to allow the transaction.
The change also would allow situations in which an employee discloses his interest to the city manager immediately after becoming aware of the interest and the city manager finds that it’s in the best interest of the city to allow the transaction.
While Mike Hall was a city councilman, city employees for a time couldn’t purchase goods from the Family Center IGA, because Hall was owner and store manager, Zahn said. As a result, city employees had to go all the way to Aransas Pass to make some purchases, he said.
Questions? Comments? Contact Dan Parker at (361) 749- 5131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.