After tending to a pair of business items on Monday’s agenda, Hondo City Council got to the pressing matter at hand, regarding the future of Kim Davis as city manager.
Following discussions in a two-hour open session, council went into executive session for another 90 minutes. Upon returning to open session, Davis accepted the terms of resignation offered to her by council.
Council will hold a special called meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 21, in council chambers to approve the terms of Davis’ negotiated resignation. An interim city manager will be appointed at that time.
The executive session agenda items included: 16D, a discussion of City Manager Kim Davis’ performance regarding conduct of current and former employees, council members and citizens; 16E, an attorney-client consultation to discuss the parameters and process for an investigation by the City Council of City Manager Davis; and, 16F, an attorney client consultation to discuss City Manager Davis’ employment contract.
San Antonio-based lawyer Melissa Morales Fletcher, Davis’ attorney, asked council to be present for any discussion of Davis’ conduct. City Attorney Frank Garza noted that Davis’ attorney would not be allowed in executive session. Accordingly, Davis asked the discussion be held in open session so Fletcher could be present.
“I represent Kim Davis related to her right under the charter,” said Fletcher. “I want to make a few objections on her behalf. First, on her behalf, I object to item 16D taking place in executive session pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 551.074. Moreover there are other items listed on there. For 16E and 16F, to the extent it is necessary, on behalf of Kim, I would object to any deliberations related to her employment, evaluation, duties, discipline or dismissal under the same section. Finally, I object on Kim’s behalf to the hearing of the complaint or charge against her during executive session.
“I would request permission to be present when you do the discussion in open session as related to 16D,” added Fletcher.
“I think that is permissible as long as you don’t speak out,” said Mayor Jim Danner.
“Do you prefer open session?” Danner asked the city manager, of agenda item 16D, the discussion about her performance and conduct.
“Yes,” said Davis.
“Item D was placed on the agenda by three council people,” said Mayor Danner. “Whoever would like to speak on item D, we will open that up now.”
Place 4 Councilwoman Ann-Michelle Long, Place 2 Councilman Vela and Place 3 Councilman Eric Torres used their time to throw a kitchen sink of allegations against Davis accusing her of a host of misdeeds. Those alleged misdeeds included: upsetting residents by failing to repair streets in a timely manner; bullying employees; being disrespectful; having an ugly attitude with employees and council; name calling; and, making inappropriate phone calls on speaker phone, thus creating a hostile work environment. The three council members said it was former city employees who had called or texted to inform them of Davis’s alleged actions.
No formal employee complaints, however, have been filed against Davis since she became Hondo’s city manager in February 2014.
“First of all, we did not want to have this discussion in open session to air out all this dirty laundry,” said Councilwoman Long. “(That) should be handled in executive session. But it is the right of the city manager to hold this in open session and it is her call.
“Regarding City Manager Kim Davis’ performance and/or conduct with current, former employees, council members and citizens, confidence and trust has been lost,” added Long before listing her allegations of what she said was disrespectful treatment of employees, council members and citizens by Davis.
Councilman John McAnelly responded to the slew of accusations by the trio of council members.
“I kind of like to think the best of people,” he said. “I’ve learned over and over you’re going to be disappointed. And, I am disappointed. I’m disappointed in people I formerly held in high regard. I’m not sure where the best place is to start, except to say the City of Hondo has become another casualty of 2020 and COVID-19 and delays in things that should have happened, but didn’t.
“We have a council/manager type government, where the council does not run the city,” continued McAnelly. “The council sets policies. The council makes decisions and the manager and his or her staff run the city. The charter spells that out. In Section 3.07, ‘Except for purposes of inquiries and investigations as provided in this charter, the city council shall deal with city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the city manager solely through the city manager. The city council shall not give orders to any such officer or employee either publicly or privately except as otherwise provided in this charter’.
“I’m sorry, my friends,” added McAnelly. “If we didn’t break that part of the charter, it is bent badly and I intend to bring a complaint. The Hondo City Charter is for the protection of everybody because when you have council members going around talking to employees and telling them what to do or asking about other employees and leave the city manager out of it, you destroy the trust that is necessary for an organization to work. And that is what has happened.
“When a council member goes to an employee and asks if they have a problem, that may not expressly be prohibited,” noted McAnelly. “But ethically, I have a problem with it. Some of the things that have been mentioned here tonight that people are saying Ms. Davis is guilty of, the accusers are guilty of the same.
“Yes, we had a disruption over the last two months because of things that came to light in early July,” added McAnelly of a Facebook post by a former city employe disclosing an executive session discussion in violation of the law. “That was then brought forward by a council person and ballooned into where we are now.”
McAnelly said Hondo is actually in pretty good shape, considering the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted many of the things discussed by council regarding the allegations against Davis could be construed as defamation and slander, especially the allegation of lying.
“Some of the stuff I’ve heard tonight tells me more about other people than it does about Ms. Davis,” he said. “I do not agree our city manager is overpaid. My dog in this fight is the organization called the City of Hondo and its employees. And we have good employees. We have a little problem from time to time and sometimes people have to leave us.
“Ms. Davis has been bullied right here in this room,” he noted. “In terms of women in a position of power, we have a strong city manager, we have a strong CEO at our hospital, we have a strong school superintendent. They all happen to be women. I have defended each of them in this city because they get (called) the ‘B-word’.
“And my comment is still, if they were men, we might not be having this conversation,” concluded McAnelly.
Danner offered his own closing comments on the topic of Davis’ conduct.
“I think I’ve told most of you my concern about Kim,” he said. “We’ve talked about that for several years. We talked about some of the behavioral aspects she needed to improve on. We’ve received those comments for the last three of four years. I do think she could have done some things to improve those personality conflicts. However, as I mentioned to all of you, I weigh the pros and the cons. I think the achievements she made for the city probably outweigh some of the concerns we are expressing tonight.
“I do feel like there needs to be some improvement,” he added, suggesting Davis, like other city employees, could be placed under a growth plan for three or six months. “If improvements aren’t made, then employees are normally dismissed. I’ve mentioned these growth plans to y’all as a way of working with Ms. Davis. But I was blown off and you didn’t want to discuss it. And that is the alternative I’d prefer to her dismissal. She has a lot of tremendous attributes and has accomplished a lot, but she has problems from a personality standpoint.
“We hired Ms. Davis to clean up many areas of the city, especially Public Works,” added Danner. “She dismissed a lot of employees. Some of these employees are now commenting on how cruel she is, so I have to agree she needs improvement. I just don’t feel that improvement is not possible. I am not for dismissing Ms. Davis. I think there is an alternative that is acceptable and can work. And I think some council members are hell-bent on firing her for personal reasons.
“And there are violations of the charter that will probably come about against you guys,” concluded Danner. He then had council recess into executive session to discuss agenda items 16E and 16F.
When council returned to open session an hour-and-a-half later, there was no action taken, as Davis accepted the terms of resignation offered to her by council in executive session.
“Ms. Davis, do you have a statement to make?” asked Mayor Danner.
“I do,” she said. “On the advice of counsel, I am resigning, subject to the terms by council that will be approved next Monday at a special called meeting.”
City Attorney Frank Garza informed council Davis would be placed on full-time Family Medical Leave Act status in the interim.
In related news, at press time, Chief Finance Officer Dee Willman resigned from her position in support of City Manager Davis shortly after learning council negotiated Davis’ resignation Monday night.