San Marcos City Councilmembers at a meeting in May. Seated, left to right, are Councilmember Kim Porterfield, Mayor Susan Narvaiz and Councilmember Fred Terry. Standing Narvaiz is Councilmember Chris Jones. Photo by Sean Batura.
By ANDY SEVILLA
San Marcos city officials are keeping quiet about the details behind the decision to fire City Manager Rick Menchaca, citing legal constraints and protection to all parties involved.
City Attorney Michael Cosentino said discussing the issue publicly is out of the question because it is a personnel matter. Though Cosentino would not explicitly say that councilmembers are legally prohibited from explaining the rationale behind the firing, he did say open dialogue could potentially bring about a negative outcome.
“There are legal consequences for discussing personnel matters publicly,” Cosentino said, “and they are not good consequences.”
The city announced Friday that Assistant City Manager Laurie Moyer will serve as acting city manager until the council approves a replacement. A statement issued by the city said Moyer’s appointment is “based on current city policy.”
Said Moyer in the statement, “The city organization is fortunate to have skilled employees in every field. City operations will continue as usual.”
Councilmembers voted against continuing an employment agreement with Menchaca by a 4-3 vote Thursday night, effective immediately. Menchaca has since expressed discontent with Mayor Susan Narvaiz and her efforts to give him the boot.
Though Councilmember Fred Terry voted in favor of the termination, he said he acknowledged Menchaca’s work for the city.
“(Menchaca) did a lot of fixing to our city mechanism and improved a lot of how our city works,” Terry said.
However, Terry also said it was a good idea to fire Menchaca, which was why the vote came out in favor of the firing. Terry did not expand on his reasoning behind that assertion, though he said performance evaluations played a role in his decision.
Terry said Cosentino advised councilmembers to not discuss details behind Menchaca’s removal, as it is a personnel matter between city and staff. Terry added that councilmembers are not prohibited by law to speak on the matter, though he said councilmembers are protecting Menchaca by keeping mum.
Councilmembers Ryan Thomason, Kim Porterfield, and John Thomaides did not return calls for comment. Said Chris Jones, “We’re referring all questions regarding Rick Menchaca to the city attorney.”
Narvaiz, Thomason, Terry and Jones voted to terminate Menchaca, while Porterfield, Thomaides and Councilmembers Gaylord Bose voted against the termination.
Menchaca said an hour after the decision that Narvaiz’ acted “unprofessionally” and for “petty” reasons, adding that she doesn’t seem to understand the council-manager form of government under which the city is chartered. Narvaiz could not be reached for comment Friday.
Cosentino said Friday that Menchaca had not signed any termination agreement as of yet. Meanwhile, Menchaca said he will consult an attorney and has not discounted the possibility of suing the city.