Councilwoman Shirley Fleming will be making changes to her previously published six-month schedule of public meetings after a policy debate that took place at Tuesday night’s Killeen City Council meeting.
In City Manager Ron Olson’s update with the council, he brought forth Governing Standards Section 2-60, a city ordinance, which states that members of the council can not hold public events on city property or with city staff if the member is within six months of an election. With a May 4 city election coming up, council members up for election are now within that time frame.
“I just need guidance from the council,” Olson said Tuesday. “How strictly do you want this to be enforced?”
Mayor Jose Segarra was the first to weigh in.
“It’s there in black and white,” Segarra said. “If that’s what it says, then that’s what we need to do.”
Fleming, whose scheduled events had been submitted to Olson’s office in early December, was not pleased.
“I don’t have the knowledge that these city employees have,” she said. “How am I supposed to give my people the information they need and want if I don’t have the knowledge like they do?”
Fleming’s District 1 seat is up for election in May. She holds District 1 meetings monthly at a coffee shop in north Killeen, inviting city staff members to talk to local residents.
Councilman Steve Harris also voiced his desire for a change in the policy. Harris, whose District 4 seat is also up for election in May, held a crime prevention meeting on Dec. 17. Harris said he planned on having more meetings, and requested that the council consider amending the policy to allow for meetings on crime prevention.
“Maybe I missed that part of the policy before, but when it comes to crime, people need to know what is going on in their community,” Harris said.
City attorney Kathy Davis was on hand Tuesday to clarify the reasoning behind the policy.
“If you (Harris) have a crime forum, and you’re wearing a shirt that says ‘Vote for Steve Harris’ standing next to a police officer that’s paid by city money, we have no way to say that city money isn’t being used to promote your campaign,” Davis said.
Seated directly across the boardroom from Fleming, Councilman Jim Kilpatrick had an opposing view of the issue.
“The first time I ran for office, the incumbent had every advantage,” Kilpatrick said. “If I am able to use these resources, then everyone that is running for office should have the same opportunity. It’s only fair.”
Kilpatrick also argued that utilizing staff members paid by the city either caused overtime for the employee or took him or her away from their assigned duty.
“I think that’s utterly ridiculous,” he said. “I should be able to find a way to get my people the information they need without using these staff members as resources.”
A motion was made that the council revisit the policy in the future for further discussion of amending it.
The motion was struck down in a 4-3 vote, with councilmembers Jim Kilpatrick, Juan Rivera, Butch Menking and Debbie Nash-King voting against changing the policy, and Gregory Johnson, Shirley Fleming and Steve Harris voting for the change.
“I’m very disappointed,” Fleming said after the vote.
Fleming plans to carry on with her schedule of events, she said Wednesday.
“I’m going to continue to have my meetings,” Fleming said. “I’ll just go another direction. If I can’t have city staff, I’m going to invite county staff.”
Her January District 1 meeting, scheduled for Monday morning, will take place as planned at 11 a.m. at Bloom Coffee Roasters, 2300 E. Rancier Ave., Suite 104.