San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

March 5th, 2010
New Kyle council boots city manager from dais

030510mattisjohnsonKyle City Manager Tom Mattis, left, and Mayor Lucy Johnson, right, seated together at Johnson’s first Kyle City Council meeting as mayor Wednesday night. That seating arrangement didn’t last long. Photo by Lance Duncan.

By LANCE DUNCAN
News Reporter

KYLE — Freshly seated for her first meeting as mayor of Kyle, Lucy Johnson succeeded in her play to move City Manager Tom Mattis off the council dais, winning council support in a 5-2 vote.

In discussions between Johnson and Mattis leading up to Wednesday’s meeting, where Councilmembers Russ Heubner and Jaime Sanchez also debuted, the new mayor requested that the city manager remove himself from the dais. Mattis initially agreed, then told Johnson that she would have to make a motion and get the council’s support in order to make him move.

“As chair of this council, I feel it’s my job to make sure that these meetings are run in an efficient and timely manner,” Johnson said in open session Wednesday. “We are the legislative and policy-making arm of Kyle, and I think we’ve been doing a somewhat inadequate job of that.”

Johnson said she thought the council had been depending too much on Mattis, and that it would better serve the council and the public if Mattis weren’t seated next to the mayor. Johnson added she is aware that the dais was built for both the council and the city manager, but said there had been concerns about the line being blurred as to who was running the meetings.

“I feel, for several reasons, it would be best if on this dais we only had council and mayor,” Johnson said.

Councilmember David Wilson responded by expressing concerns about council meeting effectiveness.

“I think running an effective meeting is what your intent is, and I think we need to do things in that way to make this as effective as we possibly can,” Wilson said.

Wilson added that there had been the impression at times that the city manager may have prompted the mayor, with whom Mattis often held quiet conversations during meetings when Mike Gonzalez was in that position. Wilson said he thought the city manager’s comments had only been offered as assistance, but that, in his view, staff did not need to be seated on the dais to assist in meetings.

For comparison, Wilson mentioned that the city attorney used to sit on the dais with the council, but no longer does for a variety of reasons. Wilson added that Mattis’ seat in the middle of the dais was sometimes a barrier to communication, since Wilson often couldn’t see Mattis from his own seat on the end of the dais.

“This is not a city manager issue in my view,” Wilson added, underscoring his sentiment that the change should be made solely to facilitate effective meeting procedures.

Councilmember and Mayor Pro-Tem Michelle Lopez said that she appreciates the desire to run efficient meetings, but not without expressing her concern that removing staff from the dais would not “really be addressing the problem.”

Lopez said the city manager is there for advice, but the mayor sets the boundary and the tone.

“Removing (the city manager) relegates responsibility of staff to a sub-level,” Lopez said. “I think when you divide that out, I’m curious about the message that sends to our city staff.”

Councilmember Becky Selbera said that in her eight years serving on the council, she had seen situations in which Mattis sat on the side, as well as on the dais. Selbera said she benefitted from sitting next to Mattis on the dais and voted with Lopez in opposing the move.

Johnson said it would be more effective for the council as a whole to have all of Mattis’ comments on the record, rather than often being said privately to the mayor or other councilmembers. When Sanchez asked if the seating situation is comparable in Buda and San Marcos, Johnson said the city manager sits to the side in those city council meetings.

Johnson moved to reserve the dais for the city council and the mayor, and Sanchez seconded her motion.

The move suggests that Mattis could be on a short tether with the new council, which could fire Mattis with a 5-2 vote, according to the Kyle charter. In that event, the council would have to pay Mattis a six-figure buyout.

Johnson and Mattis have often disagreed on budget issues, with Johnson seeking to lower taxes and Mattis trying to increase resources for additional city services. Sanchez, who ran unsuccessfully for the Kyle City Council in 2006, is also no friend of the city manager, having fought a legal battle with the city over a piece of downtown property. Sanchez won a settlement with the city for $35,000, and the city spent $50,000 in legal fees.

Mattis also has run afoul of long-time Kyle residents who supported him when he was under siege during a recall campaign against then-Mayor James Adkins in 2003. Since that election, the old timers have come to believe Mattis has managed the city without their interests sufficiently at heart.

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18 thoughts on “New Kyle council boots city manager from dais

  1. Another thousand words on a non-issue…..yet real stories go unreported. This place isn’t what it used to be…..

  2. Oh, yeah, complete non-issue. The city manager can’t any longer sit on the mayor’s shoulder as a shadow thought process for the mayor, like a good or bad conscience, steering process and policy in the interests of the staff to the detriment of the public. Total non-issue. The city council slaps their city manager of eight years across the face by a vote that could get him fired. How unnewsworthy. A new council strikes a blow against their professional administrator. As a citizen and newspaper reader, that’s the last thing I want to know about. I’m looking forward to the last poster’s next piece in the COlumbia Journalism Review.

  3. dano, maybe you should keep your comments to San Marcos politics if you want to sound relevant or sound like you know what you’re talking about.

  4. Then again, the name of this site is “San Marcos Local News” and this is an article about Kyle politics.

    Just ‘sayin.

  5. Sorry if it offends some of you, but I don’t see the purpose in having now two front-page stories about changing the seating arrangement at the Kyle Council meetings. At this point, this is just political grandstanding and not much more on Council’s part. Save the reporting for when there is a story.

    Besides, for the new Mayor in Kyle to make this her first official act in office is nothing short of bush league. Shame on her.

  6. Dano, some of us might feel the same about microchipping of pets and Springtown Mall. If you don’t like the stories – don’t read them. Or put out your own online newspaper. Or how about – not commenting unless you either have something significant to add or, at the very least, have some knowledge about the topic.

  7. No one is “offended” by your ignorance any more than we are “offended” when a baby soils itself. The analogy breaks down, of course, because that doesn’t make us realize that the baby is insipid.

  8. I have every bit as much right to question the importance of this “issue” as you do to think that it’s important. It’s a public forum, you know. So save the “sit down and shut up” argument.

    Rather than make insulting comments toward me for thinking this is not a story worthy of the front page on a publication called “SAN MARCOS Daily News”, how about you present your side of the issue? Let your arguments live or die on their own merits.

    When you post stuff like the comments above, you’re not helping your argument – all you’re doing is taking e-cheap shots which reflect more negatively on you than anything else.

  9. Here’s an e-cheap shot for you dano:

    dano March 2nd, 2010 3:24 pm :
    Ted’s characterization of this as looking ‘podunk’ is right on. Can you imagine the scene in Council chambers:

    Mayor: I dawn’t wawn’t that there guy sittin’ up dere wit us.
    City Manager: But I always sits up dere wif you.
    City Council member 1: Don’t tell no one I said dis, but I tink we should vote on it.
    City Council member 2: Dis is the mayor’s town, she kin do what she wants.

    I don’t know about you, but I would call this an “insulting comment.” Did it “help your argument,” or were you just being “negative”?
    It appears you can dish it out, but you just can’t take it dano (or whoever you are).

  10. Actually, I call it “satire” but the distinction can be difficult to make, so I don’t blame you for not getting it. If you actually took that at face value, then I guess that would explain your antipathy toward me (even though last I checked, the dig was on Kyle City Council, not on you).

    Do you deny that the actions of the new Council appear podunk or bush league (since those are the terms that have been used to describe these actions)? I can imagine the young new Mayor of Kyle, rubbing her hands in anticipation of her first official act as Mayor. She literally couldn’t wait to “put him in his place” once she took office – and she sure did, first rattle out of the box.

    How would you describe such eagerness to show up a fellow City official if not “bush” or “podunk”?

  11. Only you, dano, have used the terms “podunk” and “bush league.” I don’t think you know much about what is going on in Kyle. Maybe you should stick with San Marcos politics. You seem to be more aware of what is going on in your hometown.

  12. You continue to allege that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but you haven’t offered a single bit of educational information.

    I know that Kyle’s new mayor doesn’t like the city manager. I know that she was interested enough in this issue that she made it one of her first acts in office to “take him down a notch”.

    From this knowledge, I formed my opinion that this is bush league.

    If you have additional knowledge to impart that might cause me to change my opinion, then by all means, let’s hear it. But telling me to shut up because you don’t think I know what I’m talking about isn’t the right route to take.

    I think the problem is that I’m bringing a message you simply don’t want to hear. Because one more thing I know is that you are an ardent supporter of Lucy’s.

  13. Dano, I didn’t tell you to shut up. Those are your words. All I really said was that you should stick to SM politics because you seem more knowledgeable about those issues.

    And if you had bothered to attend the Kyle City Council, you would know what the reasoning was behind the Mayor’s decision – and the other City Councilmembers who also voted for it. It is not my job to educate you. The article above states pretty succinctly what the reasons were. And I’m not interested in engaging with someone whose identity I don’t know – and who appears to not know much about what’s going on in Kyle, but makes insulting remarks nonetheless about the town.

    And guess what, it is common knowledge that I supported Lucy Johnson. After all, I did have one of her signs and I contributed money to her campaign. So what? Lots of other people did the same. Which is why she won the election. So what.

    I just don’t think anything meaningful could come from a dialogue with you on this topic. Besides, I don’t really have much of an opinion about the action the City Council took. But I do take issue with you insulting the City of Kyle.

    Let’s just agree to disagree. Bye.

  14. I don’t see why this even made the front page of one newspaper, let alone multiple publications. It is just a reshuffling of the seating arrangement at a Council Meeting. Obviously, according to the stories, a seating arrangement that many cities use during their council meetings. Nobody got fired, or demoted. There was not an orchestra playing as the vote occurred. Obviously there are many political views on this site, and I will not trounce anyone for their views. That being said, it is a non story, I don’t see why people in Kyle are so excited that the City Manager now sits to the side. He is still the City Manager. He still serves the same job functions. He still answers to the same people, and the same people still answer to him. I have talked to some citizens who consider this a “victory.” Now, I might be sticking my head in the lions mouth, but can someone please explain how exactly anyone could claim a chair moving as a victory? It’s not like anyone got fired, all the same players are still there. If someone got fired, or suspended, or reprimanded by the council, that would be a story. This, this is just filler.

  15. I consider the seating change a positive because it takes away the city managers advantage of not speaking out freely in public meetings by whispering to either side of the panel from his position in the middle, his questions now, however infantesimal, must be made where all can hear. Maybe its something small but I don’t see how more disclosure by the city manager in public meetings is such a bad thing. Even if it is for minute or trivial things. He’s a hired gun anyway.

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  17. Sad days in Kyle. From an outsider’s viewpoint it feels like the cliques in high school all over again.

    “Besides, for the new Mayor in Kyle to make this her first official act in office is nothing short of bush league. Shame on her” this quote from Dano says it all.

    Shame, shame that the residents of Kyle are going to be the ones who suffer from this pissin’ match.

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