Duncanville has a new interim city manager, and barely into her new job, Lynda Humble is already trying to shake up the way City Council formats its meeting agenda packet, a proposal that has proved to be surprisingly controversial.
"A new agenda format has been created to establish a more formal process for the council meeting agendas," Humble announced to the City Council in a lengthy email on January 2.
Why change to a more formal agenda packet-making process? In so many words, Humble makes it clear that she thinks the current City Council meetings have sucked big-time. She blames poor planning. "Several long-standing problems have been identified by both Council and Staff that can be resolved with a more detailed approach to the agenda, staff reports and adopting resolutions or ordinances in lieu of relying on minute order."
City Council members are allowed to put whatever they want in the agenda, but Humble explains that it would "helpful" if they warned her about it first and just got the whole agenda packet ready sooner. "By removing the agenda process from a 'crisis' mode to a more 'planning' mode, the quality of information provided by staff will significantly improve, which will aid Council in having more productive policy discussions." Ouch.
Duncanville City Councilwoman Johnette Jameson returned from a trip in Houston to find Humble's email in her inbox. Her response was essentially: Get off my back.
In a long email back, Jameson defended the council's work, instead arguing that other city agencies like police and fire need to clue the council in more on what's happening in town. She added: "Stay out of Elected Officials' duties."
This meant war. Another long email followed. Humble made the case that while the City Council may get to set the policy, she still has authority to demand how that policy should be formatted. "The format of the Council agenda is a formatting issue, thus an operational issue, not a policy issue," Humble wrote. "The preparation, production and publication of the agenda, packet and all subsequent documentation are also operational functions performed by staff, who report to the City Manager."
Not long after, another City Councilman, Patrick Harvey, came to the new manager's defense. He filed not one, not two, but three separate ethics complaints against Jameson, the councilwoman who email-sassed the manager out.
This also happened via written correspondence. In a letter to the city attorney, Harvey says that Jameson's email had some rude and derogatory remarks. He particularly took issue with her demand that the manager "Stay out of Elected Officials' duties" sentence.
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"I view this as a threat!" he wrote in his complaint.
Harvey also argues Jameson had unfairly intruded on Humble's work by sending that email. "Additionally, I am of the opinion that Councilmember Jameson's tone can be perceived as creating a hostile work environment." Or at the very least, a hostile email inbox environment.
In an interview with Unfair Park, Harvey stressed that he thought the tone of the email was rude. "That language is to me extremely strong. The interim city manager that we have is a person that has worked in city government I know for at least 20 years," he says. "You don't address an experienced person like they're in kindergarten."
The council will discuss the ethics complaints at a meeting this Tuesday, which we expect to be awesome.