El Paso city attorney says city council didn't break any laws

El Paso city attorney says city council didn't break any laws
Monica Cortez-KTSM

POSTED: Monday, May 19, 2014 - 6:35pm

UPDATED: Monday, May 19, 2014 - 6:41pm

El Paso city council clarifies alleged violation of Texas Open Meetings Act in special meeting

El Paso City Council is expected to hire a new city manager during Tuesday's regular city council session, but two city council representatives, Michiel Noe and Cortney Niland, called for a special meeting questioning whether council broke the Texas Open Meetings Act when they selected Tommy Gonzalez as the city's lone finalist.

As you may recall, city council announced the finalist for the city manager position last Monday, but according to Texas law, city council must take a vote in a public meeting.

But a vote was never made, rather it was stated that council came to a consensus.

And this prompted Monday's special meeting.

In a quick 30 minute discussion, City Attorney Sylvia Borunda-Firth made it clear the council had not broken any laws.

"I don't believe we have violated the Texas open meetings act and that you are within your rights and would have no issues proceeding tomorrow," she said.

This statement came after City Representative Cortney Niland repeatedly asked Firth to go on record stating there were no laws broken.

Niland went as far to ask the attorney to write a statement explaining why the council hadn't broken any laws.

But when asked if city council could make the written statement public Firth said they couldn't because it was an attorney client privilege document.

And for Rep. Michiel Noe, this wasn't enough.

"Nothing was clarified today," he said. "I hope we get a chance to clarify it without our city attorney saying that if we do clarify it, we are violating the Open Meetings Act."

Firth reassured the council, if they had questions on her job performance she would answer them in the executive session during Tuesday regular meeting.

City Council is also expected to approve the new city manager's contract during Tuesday's regular meeting.

The former Irving City Manager, Tommy Gonzalez has entered negotiations with the city already and is looking at a base salary of about $239,000 a year; essentially the same salary currently paid to city manager Joyce Wilson.

The proposed five year contract also offers Gonzalez $15,000 a year in deferred compensation and a $500 car allowance.

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