Kempner City Council debates purchase order policy
BY ALEXANDRIA RANDOLPH DISPATCH RECORD
The Kempner City Council met last week in the Kempner Fire Department training building on Pecan Street, rather than the usual Council Chambers venue at City Hall. Deliberating, from left, are the mayor, Dr. Keith Harvey; councilmen John Wilkerson and Bob Crane; and Mayor Pro Tem David Richardson.
After a contentious discussion in a workshop session and the regular session that followed, the Kempner City Council postponed decisions on both a new city procedure policy and purchase order policy.
During the workshop session last week, the council expressed indecision on whether to move forward with new ‘Welcome to Kempner’ signs.
Advice from the city’s accountant, Jack Clark, was that any project to construct new signs should be factored into the upcoming budget year, said Dr. Keith Harvey, Kempner mayor.
“We can talk about it, we can actually vote on it, but not for this current budget time; for the next one,” Harvey said.
Councilman Bob Crane suggested delaying a vote on the signs.
“I’m tired of talking about the signs, to be honest with you,” Harvey said. “If you don’t want the signs, let the people know you don’t want the signs. But we’re not going to keep talking about the signs.”
Crane said he was against the construction of new signs and was content with the existing signs.
“Until this council adopts a purchase order policy, we don’t need to have any conversations on purchasing anything,” Councilman John Wilkerson said. “I’m open to improving the signs of Kempner, but I’m not willing to do anything at the moment.”
Harvey said the proposed purchase order policy already had been examined by the city attorney and city accountant.
Wilkerson requested that the council jump ahead in the workshop to examine the proposed purchase order policy and the suggested changes that he had drafted.
“You have your proposal,” Harvey said. “The [existing] policy was blessed by the accountant.”
Wilkerson said the accountant “advises the council when the council makes decisions.”
“What you’d like to do is impose your own policy of what you like,” Harvey said. “You’d like to say you are here for the city, and you’re not.”
Wilkerson reiterated his request to move forward in the workshop agenda to examine the purchase policy.
“If you refuse to do so, I ask that you take a poll of the council members sitting up here to see if we all, as a governing body, not as an independent mayor, want to move to number five [on the agenda],” he said.
“Would you like to be the mayor, Mr. Wilkerson?” Harvey asked. “I think you do.”
Council member Mack Ruszkiewicz added his statement to the conversation.
“This is a volunteer position, there is a lot of preparation for these meetings – things to read, and all that,” he said. “I don’t know where we are going at this moment, but right now I suggest a 45-day [moratorium] on spending of city funds, effective today."
He added that this hold would exclude salaries and functional business of the city.
Ruszkiewicz said he was concerned about the financial position of the city following the damage that occurred at City Hall when a vehicle crashed into the building Aug. 25.
“In light of what happened [that day], we need to check ourselves and see where we stand,” he said.
The mayor assured Ruszkiewicz the money for emergency repairs to City Hall would not affect the current budget of the city.
Harvey added that immediate measures were taken to secure the City Hall building but added that “what has been allocated to the restoration of this building has nothing to do with the funds that are being spent.”
Ruszkiewicz replied: “It’s been my life experience that when things happen that are unforeseen, there are unforeseen expenses.”
That is why the city has insurance, Harvey said.
“There is no financial strain, period,” the mayor said.
Wilkerson said there have been recent miscellaneous purchases that were concerning to the council.
“I think the frustration that you’re seeing of us up here is that we’re looking at these bills and saying, ‘we did not specifically authorize this,’ ” he said.
Harvey said in a discussion between the council and the city’s accountant, Clark said to feel free to take care of miscellaneous expenses.
“He said this is the time to take care of this business,” Harvey said. “One thing I’d like to point out … I inherited this mess. The current budget we’re working on is not my budget, and, unfortunately, I have to deal with it.”
Harvey said some smaller purchases had to be made, such as for microphones so the audience at a City Council meeting could hear council members.
“Things were purchased, but if I have to come in here to buy a stick of gum because I want to chew it, then I don’t need to be mayor,” he said. “Now, there are things that need to come before the council. The council should know everything that we’re doing. Therefore, I’ve instructed the city secretary that everything we do, when we do it, it gets sent to the council.”
Wilkerson said that was the concern, and that the council should be able to vote on expenditures before they are made.
“It’s the council’s budget, not your budget,” he said. “That’s what the council wants you to understand.”
The mayor replied that “it’s my budget. … It is not the council’s money, it’s the people’s money.”
The council represents those people, Wilkerson said.
“As me sitting here, it’s my responsibility to ensure things are done correctly; there’s no fraud, there’s no abuse,” Harvey said. “That’s my responsibility.”
Harvey said it was his responsibility to present the information to council members, who would do the “checks and balances” on spending.
“We want more control, rather than a mayor that goes out and spends money and brings us the bill afterward,” Wilkerson said.
Ruszkiewicz said the city is lucky to have a positive fund balance, but “I have a feeling that people are feeling we’re pushing out too far, too quick on the spending.”
Harvey stated that the city has a sixth-month expenditure buffer.
Wilkerson requested that the council move ahead in the agenda to discuss the purchase order policy. The council voted in majority to move to that item.
“What I did is take the mayor’s proposed policy, and after a meeting with the accountant, made some suggested changes,” Wilkerson said.
Harvey replied: “I think it’s an injustice to give [council members] something and ask them for a decision now. You’ve had time to talk with the CPA and make your own suggestions, but they need that same opportunity and [need to] be afforded that time.”
Wilkerson responded: “I want to make it clear that if you don’t adopt this policy tonight, the mayor can spend as much money as he wants to, and you cannot stop him.”
Harvey said: “Let me make it clear, nothing will be spent – not even a dime – outside of what is supposed to be spent. You’re proposing something as if the mayor is out there writing blank checks, and that’s not the case.”
Harvey said the purchases he made were to replace items damaged when the vehicle crashed into City Hall recently.
The council then determined that due to the length of the purchase order document, members needed more time to evaluate the proposed policy.
“This is quite a bit to read on the spot,” Ruszkiewicz said. “I appreciate what the councilman [Wilkerson] did as far as research … that’s what we need to do and that’s good, but honestly I don’t think I could make an honest and just decision by reading this here.”
Due to discussion over the city’s finances and the purchase order policy, the council ran out of time to discuss the procedures policy and ordinance.
During the regular council meeting that followed the workshop, the council voted to hold the procedures policy and ordinance item for a future workshop. Mayor Pro Tem David Richardson asked that “if at all possible, that be the only thing on the workshop agenda.”
Following that item, Wilkerson moved to accept the city purchase order policy with changes that he had noted during the workshop. The motion failed for lack of a second, and no further action was taken.
In other discussion at the meeting, the council was divided over approval of accounts payable dated Aug. 22.
Wilkerson repeated his concern about several accounts payable items, including microphones and a digital clock, that had not been pre-approved by the council. Those purchases represented about $86.
“I’ve gone to a lot of different council meetings, and that’s the first time I’ve seen a shot clock on a wall,” Wilkerson said.
“That was actually recommended by our legal agency,” Harvey said.
The council approved the accounts payable, with Wilkerson and Crane in opposition.
In other action at the meeting, the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to renew business with Texas Waste Solutions.
The council also voted unanimously to postpone a decision on a contract with new website provider, Charles Gilmore of iElev8media, pending additional information.
No action was taken on an item proposing reconstruction of the Welcome to Kempner signs.
Also at the meeting, a citizen stepped forward during the public comments portion to state what he felt were failures by the governing body.
“I just attended the workshop, and I have to say, that was embarrassing,” Steven Vance Rodgers said. “I’m going to implore the council … under [Local Government Code] Section 22.077, removal of a municipal officer … the City Council can vote at any time a vote of no confidence, and I think that applies here with our mayor.”
Rodgers also expressed disapproval that the City Council was not presented all the applicants who applied for the vacant council position following the resignation of Don Casper, but rather only received the applicant recommended by the mayor.
During the meeting, the council convened in executive session for roughly an hour to discuss “personnel matters” pursuant to Government Code 551.074 and “security” pursuant to Government Code 551.076.
No action was taken after the executive session.
This article is from Lampasas Dispatch Record at https://www.lampasasdispatchrecord.com/content/kempner-city-council-debates-purchase-order-policy