Apparently Transparency Only Goes So Far With Some of the Duncanville City Council

Filed under: City |

At least that is the feeling of some of those in attendance at the special meeting of the City Council meeting to discuss the law firm to represent the City of Duncanville.

This meeting was originally scheduled as an executive session in the briefing room to hear from selected law firms that responded to the request for qualifications to represent the city, and the vote on the matter was to take place on the regular meeting scheduled for November 15, 2011. But, Councilmember Johnette Jameson requested that the interviews, discussions, and vote were to take place at the special meeting held on Monday night.

Because of public interest, and because the agenda was changed to vote on the matter, Mayor David Green moved the meeting to the council chambers and gave the public an opportunity to speak.

But, the fireworks of the evening began before the meeting ever started. As citizens were already in the chambers when Jameson arrived, she approached Assistant City Manager Jeanne Fralicks as to why the meeting was moved from the briefing room. When Mayor Green informed her that he had made the decision to move the meeting, she became visibly upset and could be heard questioning Mayor Green as to what he thought he was doing. Mayor Green then returned to his seat to start the meeting.

The first speaker was Nancy Bell who stated that change was good. Next was Homer Fincannon and he talked about what he felt were some wrong decisions and advice made by the current attorney. Wesley Jameson then spoke and said he applauded the council for looking at alternative law firms, and to see what they had to offer. James Hubener said he was “excited” when governments looked at their processes and to see what changes might need to be made. The last speaker was Cindy Jones and she questioned that a certain member of the council had already met one of the firms at a seminar, paid for by the firm, and mileage was reimbursed by the city for this meeting, and questioned if there was already a “relationship” established between the councilmember and the firm. She also suggested that perhaps the female member of the council should remove herself the vote.

As Mayor Green was preparing to move onto the presentations by the selected firms, Councilmember Leslie Thomas moved that the presentations and interviews be moved into executive session and Jameson seconded this.

Thomas said that there was a need to continue in executive session because of possible legal matters that did not need to be discussed in public.

Mayor Green said that he was just attempting to maintain transparency in the matter.

Councilmember Grady Smithey spoke next and said that he had heard a lot about transparency in the past few months, and saw nothing wrong with holding the presentations in public and then going into executive session to interview the firms.

Councilmember Don Freeman questioned that if the presentations were done in public, if the firms would be brought in to executive session for discussions.  Mayor Green assured him that the firms would be interviewed individually.

Councilmember Janet Harris said that however they chose to conduct the interviews would be fine, but she was told it would be in executive session and then arrived tonight to find it as an open meeting and that she took issue with it being changed.

Jameson stated that it was a discussion for the council, because the firm worked for the council and that they had a lot of things going on and that they need to move forward.

Scott Cannon pointed out that the meeting was already changed when the decision was made to change the vote from the meeting on the fifteenth to tonight. Smithey also said that is the reason for the change to a public meeting and that the public need to be able to give their opinion before the vote on the matter.

With no other discussion on the matter, the vote was taken and the council moved into executive session by a vote of 4-3, with Cannon, Green, and Smithey voting against holding the presentations in executive session. The council recessed into executive session just after 6:30pm.

At approximately 9:39, the council came back into the chambers and Mayor Green brought the meeting back into open session. Smithey made a motion to postpone the vote on the legal firm until the next scheduled meeting, which is November 15, 2011 and Cannon seconded the motion.

During the ensuing discussion, Jameson said that she would vote to postpone the vote until the next meeting. She stated that concerns over one particular firm had been raised and that the comment was made that you could find something against any of these firms, and would vote to allow members to do further research on the firms in question.

Thomas stated that she would be voting against the motion as she felt that enough information had been given that an “intelligible” decision could be made.

With no further discussions, the council voted 5-2 to postpone the vote on the matter (Freeman and Thomas voting against).

With no further items on the agenda, the meeting was dismissed.

After the meeting, MyDuncanville.com received an e-mail from a concerned citizen regarding expenditures for Councilperson Johnette Jameson. Along with the e-mail, a copy of a City of Duncanville Councilmember Request for Mileage Reimbursement that is dated September 2, 2011 and submitted by Jameson. There are three line items listed on the request; a seminar by Brown and Hofmeister LLP on July 29, 2011 in Richardson, a meeting on August 24, 2011 with the North central Texas Housing Finance Corporation in Garland, and the TML Region 13 Dinner and Meeting held on August 19, 2011 in Mesquite. The form was signed by Mayor Green and a total of $95.98 was shown reimbursed to Jameson.

MyDuncanville.com has submitted two Open Records Requests with the City of Duncanville, one dated November 2 and one dated November 5, 2011 requesting the following information:

  1. A listing of all conventions and conferences attended, or planned to attend (with dates), by the councilmembers during the fiscal years 2011 and 2012. Including which councilmembers attended the conferences/training. This is including but not limited to attendance to any of the Texas Municipal League conferences and the National League of Cities conferences.
  2. I would also request the expenditures for any events already attended and expected/budgeted funds for any expected conferences over the remainder of the 2012 fiscal year.

And

  1. Any mileage reimbursements paid to council members since the first of May 2011 to the latest records available. In particular, any mileage reimbursements for Councilmember Johnette Jameson the weeks of July 25, 2001 thru August 5, 2011 and the purpose of the trip.

MyDuncanville.com is hoping to find out the purpose of the seminar held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel North Dallas, and if the seminar was open to all councilmembers.  The hotel is located in the same block of Campbell Road in Richardson as the offices of Brown & Hoffmeister, LLP. As soon as the documents are available we will go through them and follow-up on this story.

4 Responses to Apparently Transparency Only Goes So Far With Some of the Duncanville City Council

  1. Funny how the people who claim a desire for transparency are actually the ones most afraid of it. Jameson is proving to be a hypocrite at best, and I reserve comment for the ‘at worst’ part out of fear of being edited. Thomas, Freeman, Harris & Jameson are showing their true colors, as if they have not already. With these four, we would be lucky to get Bozo the Clown to be our next city manager.

    Drawde
    Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 2:10 am

    • I think Bozo the Clown would do a better job! Way to go Jameson for speaking up. Tired of the good old boy system that has run Duncanville into the ground! It is time for change.

      Rachel McAdams
      Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm

  2. As a follow-up. I have submitted questions to each of the council members through their official city e-mails regarding the seminar attended by Councilmember Jameson. The main questions asked is if all councilmembers were afforded the opportunity to attend the seminar, what topics were discussed at the seminar and what other persons were in attendance at the seminar. I’m looking forward to reading their responses and I’ll be sharing the results.

    admin
    Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 9:00 am

  3. This whole mess is going to get interesting. Personal agendas will block and prevent any real progress they could hope to make. Can we turn back to clock and see if we can reboot to the 70s? It’s not going to happen. The best hope is to continue to revitalize the city. If we just let everything get old, we can be like another tiny city swallowed by Dallas. Cockrell Hill.

    Fourth generation
    Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 12:25 am