Rick Menchaca at a public event in 2008. Menchaca was fired by the San Marcos City Council Thursday night in a 4-3 vote. File photo.
By BILL PETERSON
Though the San Marcos City Council has fired City Manager Rick Menchaca, the city may not have heard the last from him.
About an hour after the council voted, 4-3, to fire Menchaca Thursday night, Menchaca said he has not accepted the city’s offer of severance. Menchaca said he will look for an attorney and explore his legal options. Menchaca did not rule out the possibility of suing the city.
Beyond that, Menchaca criticized Mayor Susan Narvaiz, who, he said, orchestrated his ouster during the course of eight-to-ten hours of executive sessions in the last ten days. Menchaca said he was before the council for a grand total of about 20 minutes during those executive sessions, which were posted as an “evaluation” of the city manager.
“When you’re doing an evaluation, that doesn’t sound like a very open and fair process,” Menchaca said.
Though Thursday night’s meeting at which the council fired Menchaca was posted at City Hall as required by law, other usual methods of distributing the agenda were not followed. The agenda was not posted as usual on the city clerk’s page on the city’s website, though it was accessible on the MuniAgenda utility after many attempts, and email subscribers to the agenda did not receive it.
The meeting was held in a conference room behind the council chamber, rather than in the council chamber or the staff conference room where the council often holds workshops. The meeting was not televised on the city’s public access television station or the city’s website.
“I’m disappointed that she’s acted so unprofessionally in this matter,” Menchaca said of Narvaiz.
After the council voted for Menchaca’s termination, he said Narvaiz and City Attorney Michael Cosentino gave him 15 minutes to look at the severance agreement they had drawn up before pressuring for his signature. Menchaca said he told them he would consult an attorney.
“The hastiness of it, I was not comfortable,” Menchaca said. ” … I’ve got 22 years of city management experience. I’m not going to sign it in 15 minutes. You get more time when you’re buying furniture at Ashley’s Furniture.”
Narvaiz refused comment about Menchaca’s termination, saying it’s a personnel matter. Other councilmembers also refused to comment, citing legal constraints.
Menchaca said the three-term mayor has consolidated much more power in her office than prescribed by the council-manager form of government under which the city is chartered. Menchaca said he began feeling those effects from the beginning, once he was hired effective May 1, 2008.
“I don’t think that she understands the council-manager form of government in the city charter,” Menchaca said.
Asked why he thought Narvaiz moved to have him fired, Menchaca said he didn’t understand it, adding that it was entirely unwarranted. Menchaca said he has received positive evaulations of his performance throughout his time in San Marcos.
Menchaca said that when he began the job, the city was four years behind in capital improvements projects while nearly $200 million for those projects were sitting in the bank and being taxed without any work being done. Menchaca said he has put $110 million worth of projects in motion in his 25 months, saved the city about $500,000 per year on a staff reorganization and saved another $1.7 million refinancing debt.
“I’ve got an impeccable record,” Menchaca said. “I’ve saved the city millions of dollars and balanced the tax rate without cutting services at a time when other cities are having to raise taxes.”
The only specific problem Menchaca could name that he thought motivated Narvaiz was fairly recent. At the end of May, C.M. Allen Parkway took on a new look after Menchaca ordered a “road diet,” which reduced traffic from four lanes to two while adding bike lanes and 170 parking spaces.
Councilmember John Thomaides wrote a letter to the editor in local publications praising the move, and 119 citizens signed a petition approving of the change. But Menchaca said Narvaiz didn’t like it.
“It’s a great project,” Menchaca said. “She didn’t agree with that. It’s as petty as that.”
Menchaca said professionals in public management and superintending positions understand firings as a way of life, but added that sudden firings of this sort tend to occur shortly before or shortly after elections. The mayor’s seat and two council seats are up for election in November.
“This is an election season, and people start doing things like this,” Menchaca said.Email | Print