The council’s action to approve the labor contract with the Police Department came just a little more than 13 hours before its deadline to reach such an agreement, the start of FY 2016-17.
Details of what, under terms specified in something called the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, is known as a meet-and-confer agreement were not immediately made public. However, the City of San Antonio, to cite just one example, posts a copy of its meet-and-confer agreement on its web site and I have sent an e-mail to Kyle’s director of Human Resources to do the same or to find some other way to make the document public. The purpose of Chapter 10 of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, which calls for meet and confer, is "to promote full communication between public employers and their employees by providing a reasonable method of resolving disputes regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment between public employers and public employee organizations."
While various city council members seemed rather happy about the outcome of the negotiations, a representative of the Kyle Police Association, who identified himself to me as "Officer Pruitt, vice president of the KPA," seemed somewhat less enthusiastic while remaining outwardly reserved.
"There are things we would still like to discuss with (the city)," Pruitt told me when I asked if he was "happy" with the contract. "But I would probably need to get with my board before I spoke more about it, before I put out any kind of statement."
That reservation, as I mentioned earlier, was not shared by many of those on the council.
"I’m happy with the contract," Mayor Pro Tem Damon Fogley said. "Our heart is with the Police Department and we want to set that bar for re-hires and to make sure we have pay parity with surrounding communities. So I’m really happy with this contract moving forward."
"I think it’s clear that the council as a whole likes the Police Department," council member David Wilson said. "They want the Police Department to be as good as it can and, to do that, you’ve got to fund. I’m happy to make that motion" to approve the contract."
Wilson indicated approval of the agreement was not as unanimous among members of the Police Association as it was with the council. In fact, he went out of his way to say it was approved by "the majority," but by no means all members of the association.
Mayor Todd Webster acknowledged he was the council’s representative in the negotiating process. He said the negotiations were never "adversarial" and were conducted "in good faith." Webster acknowledged that many members of the association might be somewhat less than thrilled with the outcome because they "certainly didn’t get everything they asked for." But, he said, he hoped "the officers in the department understand there really is a commitment on our part to support them and to have a professional, well-run Police Department."
Following its 57-minute executive session, during which the council was briefed by its attorney on the meet and confer and a contract with the Kyle Chamber of Commerce as well as continuing Sellers’s annual performance evaluation, the council reconvened to not only make effusive comments about the city manager but to express its collective desire to keep him in his current position.
"The council is very happy with the city manager’s performance and the direction the city is headed," Mayor Webster said. "You’ve exceeded our expectations and it’s important that we say that publicly. We have started conversations about extending your contract."
The mayor said he hoped the council’s next regularly scheduled meeting, on Oct. 18, or the meeting after that, Nov. 1, will contain an item to approve a contract extension.
"I’m very pleased with what I’m getting and you’re accessible as well," Wilson added. "In particular, I like your ability to reach out beyond our borders. I run into people independently — somebody who says something positive about you. That’s a positive thing for our area and our community."
Fogley called Sellers "a great motivator and a great personnel manager. The employees who work here appreciate your leadership and are highly motivated to work with you, so I appreciate that."
Council member Daphne Tenorio, who has been critical of city staff in the past, acknowledged today that "communications have gotten so much better. I’m really appreciating the fact that you have been so accessible. I really appreciate the fact that we have been able to solve problems without having to go to the well of the taxpayers for more money. And I really appreciate the fact that you are leading the city in the direction I think we need to go, especially when we’re experiencing such rapid growth. I’m very pleased with the direction in which we’re heading."
Council member Travis Mitchell said he hoped "we’re going to find a way to keep you here long term" and joked he would be willing to "road block the exits" to prevent Sellers from leaving, which forced Webster to reply that the current conversation was "not precipitated by his coming in and saying he was planning on leaving. This is on the council’s initiative."
In other action the council:
- Initially deferred taking an action on renewing Wells Fargo Bank’s lease on the plot of ground immediately north of City Hall where the bank hosts an ATM machine because, as Mitchell pointed out, the agreement contained no language referencing termination of the contract. After it came out of executive session, during which time the council inserted a penalty-free, 90-day termination clause, the council approved the lease agreement 6-0 (council member Becky Selberra was formally excused from this council meeting due to work-related conflicts).
- Also deferred action on a new contract for providing funds for the Chamber of Commerce until its Dec. 6 meeting because, in Webster’s words, the council is "trying to figure out an appropriate way to handle this." Chamber CEO Julie Snyder and other chamber officials beseeched the council during citizen comments period to approve a pending contract, but their pleas went unheeded. Snyder left the council chambers while I was talking to Officer Pruitt about the meet and confer agreement, but I have reached out to her via e-mail to see if she’ll provide a reaction to the council’s inaction.
- Heard Sellers talk about a new medical insurance option for city employees which has absolutely no effect on tax rates, public expenditures, etc. — is strictly an internal matter — and, as such, not worth of going into detail about here.