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Randy Leonard resigns from city council

 
Randy Leonard resigns from city council
Randy Leonard

La Vernia city Councilman Randy Leonard has re-signed, following a highly charged special council meeting Oct. 9.

“When you have an employee who is driven by personal financial gain on the backs of taxpayers and who is insubordinate to the President of the MDD, the Mayor, and the City Council after clear direction, then something must change,” Leonard, who also served as the president of the La Vernia Municipal Development District (MDD), wrote in a resignation letter, sent to the newspaper. “I said that I would not allow this to continue and that if something did not change, I would resign.” (Read the full letter on page 3A.)

Leonard joined councilmen Marie Gerlich, Harold Schott, Eloi Cormier, and Jennifer Moczygemba, along with Mayor Robert Gregory, for the special meeting last Thursday. The majority of the evening was focused on two agenda items for discussion and possible action:

•“... removing the cur-rent Board of Directors for the Municipal Development District and replacing the Board with the La Vernia City Council” and

•“... regarding the Municipal Development District Executive Director position, to discuss if the position is economically viable for the city.”

A proposed 10-percent pay increase for the executive director in the MDD budget prompted a four-hour workshop Sept. 15 of the full council and MDD board -- in which the council discovered the position has received such an increase every year since 2011. The council directed the MDD to contain costs; it was thought the matter was put to rest. But last week, a draft MDD board agenda featured an “Executive Director Incentive Program.” The same agenda listed possible action regarding the MDD’s legal counsel. This followed discussion during past council meetings regarding an interlocal agreement between the city and the MDD; discussion seemingly indicated the city council has no say over compensation for the MDD executive director.

“When I look at excessive incentives and percent-ages with taxpayer dollars, that raises concerns,” Gregory said, addressing MDD Executive Director Jennifer Kolbe. “Do we want you here in that capacity? Absolutely. Can we afford you? That’s the question. ... We have to answer to the taxpayers. We serve the taxpayers. Bottom line. If something goes south, it’s on us.”

Leonard read, shaking with emotion, from a prepared statement.

“... It was my understanding that this issue of compensation was resolved until I received a draft agenda for October’s MDD Board Meeting ...,” he said, adding that he’d “respectfully directed” Kolbe to remove the items in question from the agenda.

He continued, “...The constant pursuit of additional compensation from the Executive Director ... has caused division between the City Council and the MDD Board ... and has been disruptive in nature and cannot be allowed to continue.”

He also referenced communication with city attorney Charlie Zech, who advised that Kolbe had approached him, requesting a recommendation for another attorney to represent the MDD.

“I’m not going to let you hold us hostage ...,” Leonard said. “You’re not going to threaten this council.”

“I’m very sorry if I offended anybody,” Kolbe said. “I love my job and this community. ... If things are going to change, we need to sit down and work on that.”

“It seems there’s a lack of communication from the MDD to the council,” Schott said, invited to comment. “Just the fact that this draft exists concerns me. What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand? ... Nobody came here to get rich, but because they liked it.”

Gregory, facing Kolbe, offered a direct question.

“I need to know you want to work here for that pay,” he said.

“I want to work here,” she responded.

Gregory suggested no action be taken on the item related to Kolbe’s position, unless he received a motion to the contrary. None was offered.

“Unfortunately, it’s taken this venue to vet where the city’s at,” the mayor said, regarding the municipal development board matter. He encouraged clear lines of communication, and invited a motion regarding the possible removal of the MDD board, but received none. The matter can be revisited in 30 days, he advised.

A shaken Kolbe thanked the council and left before the meeting ended.

In other business, the council:

•Approved an ordinance requiring contractors to register with the city to perform work there

•Approved requiring city officials and employees to sign and abide by an ethics policy

•Heard a request to designate November as “Arts Appreciation Month” in the city from the La Vernia Historical Association, the La Vernia Foundation for the Arts, and La Vernia Shoestring Stage Productions

•Heard an update on the veterans memorial, planned for the La Vernia City Park

•Agreed to continue drafting an ordinance for a city parks commission.

 
 
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