The Huntsville City Council did not take any formal action on city attorney Thomas Leeper and tabled a proposal to appoint Victor Pena as interim city manager Tuesday night at City Hall.

The regular meeting began at 6 p.m. and finished at 9:37 p.m. when the nine-member council adjourned from a two-hour executive session where they discussed an incident that occurred between Leepper and a councilmember.

The closed session began at 7:37 p.m.

Pena, who is director of the city’s Administrative Services Department, remains acting city manager.

The council voted July 7 to appoint Pena as acting manager until a second interim manager was named following the resignation of Gene Pipes.

One of Tuesday night’s agenda items was possibly appointing Pena as interim manager but Mayor Pro Tem Mac Woodward called for a motion to table the proposal until after tonight when the council is scheduled to receive a list of candidates seeking the city manager job.

Woodward’s motion was approved 7-2. Tom Cole and Melissa Mahaffey voted against it.

Pena’s title designation is expected to remain acting city manager — with a possible increase in pay — until a new city manager is hired.

Mayor J. Turner opened the meeting with a standing-room only crowd in council chambers.

More residents stood in the doorway leading to the foyer at City Hall and city department heads had to wait their turn in the council’s conference room.

They normally are seated in the front row on either side of the council chambers.

The council completed its regular session at 6:36 p.m. and returned to its budget workshop in council chambers before adjourning into executive session.

The two-hour executive session did reduce the size of the crowd somewhat, but a large portion of the original audience remained to see if the council would take any action on Leeper in open session.

Turner came out of the conference room, announcing to the crowd that no further action would be taken and the meeting was adjourned.

“Everybody can go home,” Turner said.

Even though the council did not take any formal action following the executive session, Turner said the closed door meeting “is an opportunity to discuss sensitive matters,” including personnel matters regarding the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of a public officer or employee.

“In this particular situation, we had a sensitive personnel matter dealing with a charter officer, “ Turner said. “So that matter was discussed. It was a situation that I think provided communication for all parties; that it was an opportunity for concerns to be exposed or addressed.

“When you really get down to it, probably the key word here is communication. I am very hopeful this was a productive use of our time and that we are able to move forward with the operation of our city as a result of this.”

Turner said Leeper remains as city attorney.

He said that if any formal action would have been taken it would have occurred in open session.

“You had a good exchange of concerns,” Turner said of the closed door session. “As far as no formal action taken, I think that Mr. Leeper has a better idea of expectations of council and council has better expectations of Mr. Leeper.

“It was an opportunity to have very candid exchange about what expectations and explanations for the behavior between council and our charter officer. Maybe there wasn’t the communication that might have been.”

Turner said the session was “an effective way to clear the air about maybe some suppositions that may not have been accurate and to get a fresh start to it all.”

“Sometimes it takes having a situation to resolve how you handle that situation in the future,” Turner said. “This is sort of like a first-time experience. I think we will be able to build upon it and work effectively.”

Turner said he expects Pena will retain the acting city manager title until the council hires a new city manager.

Woodward made a motion to table a proposal regarding the interim manager’s role since Pena is a candidate for the city manager job.

Wayne Barrett said he had the same reservations as Woodward, having the notion that the interim position status would be revisited.

Barrett voted with Woodward, Lanny Ray, Clarence Griffin, Charles Forbus and Dalene Zender to table the proposal.

Turner said the question remains whether a change from acting to interim manager is required.

“It’s not something where we have to call a special meeting because we have tabled it,” he said. “He (Pena) will be just acting manager. I don’t think it is hugely important.

“He is doing the job. I think that he has done an admirable job so far with the budgets. Council deferred changing his status.”