The Huntsville City Council will consider appointing Victor Pena as interim city manager and is scheduled for an executive session to discuss city attorney Thomas Leeper during its meeting tonight at City Hall.
The regular session starts at 6 p.m. in council chambers.
Prior to the meeting, councilmembers will hold a work session at 5 p.m. to discuss the draft Fiscal Year 2008-09 budget to include supplemental requests and capitol projects (to be continued following the regular session as needed).
Pena, who is director of the city’s Administrative Services Department, was named acting city manager by the council during a July 7 emergency session after Gene Pipes submitted his letter of resignation.
His resignation was effective today. His duties officially ended July 7 when the council voted to end his contract on that day, but continued to pay him through today.
Pipes, a former Huntsville city manager, started his duties as interim city manager Jan. 22 following the resignation of former city manager Kevin Evans.
He was scheduled to remain until the council hired a new city manager.
Pena was selected to serve as acting city manager until the council could appoint a second interim manager.
Mayor J. Turner said Pena has indicated an interest in serving as interim until a new manager is hired.
Pena has applied for the city manager’s job in addition to city finance director Winston Duke.
Even though Pena is a candidate for the vacant job, councilmembers said July 7 that he is the most qualified person available at this time to serve as acting managing.
“My expectation for tomorrow night is that we will vote to have Victor as the interim city manager,” Turner said Monday afternoon. “At this time, I would say the reasoning is very similar to what was the reasoning was last Monday night.”
Turner said an emergency session was called July 7 because “the statute says clearly that if it is a reasonably unforeseen circumstance that is grounds for it and the receipt of Mr. Pipes’ letter was a reasonably unforeseen circumstance.
“To me, this was a reasonably unforeseen circumstance.”
Turner said the council thanked Pipes in open session for his service and contributions to the city since late January and pay him through today, but “that it was better to go ahead and address the issue of filling the vacancy.”
“This wasn’t an easy situation, but at the same time it was felt like we might as well address the situation and not put it off to July 15,” Turner said. “That is why we came up with the acting city manager role for Victor.”
Turner said councilmembers could consider someone else to fill the interim manager role, “but it is my expectation that Victor will be named the interim city manager.”
Turner said Pena will serve as interim city manager until a new manager is hired and he hopes that will happen by the end of July.
Turner said he hopes to have a new city manager in place by Sept. 1.
Turner said Duke could have been considered to fill the interim role, but he is involved with the city’s 2008-09 budget, “ruling him out.”
He said councilmembers had concerns about Pena filling the acting city manager role, but “in the final analysis it was agreed upon that he was the best candidate for the short duration. I would be very surprised if it’s not Mr. Pena (to be selected as interim manager).”
“We were assured while we were in session he was OK with doing it. Mr. Pena is awilling interim manager here. We hope that this does not negatively impact him.”
The council also is scheduled to adjourn into executive session to discuss Leeper.
The Texas Government Code permits the executive session on personnel matters regarding the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of a public officer or employee.
The council would have to take any action regarding Leeper in open session.
A Letter to the Editor in Saturday’s edition of The Item indicated Leeper’s job is in jeopardy after a disagreement with a councilmember.
Councilman Lanny Ray placed the item on the agenda.
Turner said, “We had a request for Mr. Leeper to give us some information. I don’t know what the status of that information is, but I think the issue to be discussed is his response to the request.”
“I don’t think that at all,” Turner said when asked if the council has an agenda to remove employees at City Hall.
“I think there is this question of whether or not he has responded to a legitimate request of his performance of his job,” Turner said. “This is the reason it is in executive session.
“There was a request made to get some information. It was a multiple request and I have tried to counsel all parties here, both the requesting and Thomas.
“We need to address it. There needs to be a priority. A person can’t do five things instantaneously. You have to do one, two, three, four, five, but at the same time when council makes a request of a charter officer it is a serious matter.”
“I think council’s concern is that the information is given to council,” Turner said. “Speaking only for myself, if there is an issue with Mr. Leeper, if this information has been requested and if for some reason it’s not forthcoming, I would want to know why.
“I would want some kind of schedule of when it will be, but at the same time, Mr. Leeper is a veteran member of our organization and in most organizations you don’t get smacked with one indiscretion.
“I don’t think there is any desire for Mr. Leeper to vacate the position, but at the same time if Mr. Leeper doesn’t respond to legitimate requests I think he deserves a warning, which is what I see this as perhaps.”
Other items on tonight’s agenda are:
• Authorizing the city manager to execute a three-year contract with SHI Government Solutions for Microsoft licensing and software assurance in an amount not to exceed $55,612 per year (for a total three-year contract amount not to exceed $166,863.
• Authorizing the city manager to execute the contract with the Boys and Girls Club of Walker County to manage the city’s After School Recreation Program at a cost not to exceed $16,560 with additional funding for scholarships in an amount not to exceed $750 for the school year.
• Discuss and consider possible action to award the bid to and authorize the city manager to execute the contract with Absolute Industries Inc. for the Boettcher Drive 6-inch ssewer project bid in an amount not to exceed $66,548.99.
• Discuss and consider possible action to award the bid to and authorize the city manager to execute the contract with Doughtie Construction Co. Inc for the 13th Street and Sycamore 8-inch sewer relocate project bid in an amount not to exceed $19,192.35.
• Discuss and consider possible action on permission for the City of Huntsville to participate with Walker County in applying for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security FY 2008 Emergency Operations Center grant program and to make a one-time contribution of up to $50,000 in in-kind services toward the project.
• Consider and take possible action on appointments to interim city manager, councilmember Clarence Griffin to the City Council Personnel Committee and Channel 7 Contract Ad Hoc Review Committee members.