Goliad administrator, 2 council members resign amid power struggle

Sara  Sneath By Sara Sneath

July 19, 2014 at 2:19 a.m.
Updated July 20, 2014 at 2:20 a.m.

GOLIAD - A power struggle between newly elected city officials and long-term officeholders has resulted in three resignations and the lingering question of who is responsible for the city's budget.

The mayor and two new council members appear intent on providing more transparency to city finances after questions surrounding the Goliad Municipal Development District's lending practices were raised by the Victoria Advocate last year. But opponents say the new members' reach for more oversight is stripping authority from the city administrator and creating a voting bloc on the council.

City Administrator Larry Zermeno resigned during Tuesday's City Council meeting after saying the new council members and mayor were taking his job responsibilities away from him.

"It's clear to me that you all want to change the way the city administrator operates," Zermeno said according to an audio tape of Tuesday's meeting. "I will not work like this."

City councilman Buddy Zavesky read his resignation letter during the public comment period of the council meeting, and councilman Lionel Garcia submitted a letter of resignation the following afternoon.

"There have been some changes in the council, as you know, and the direction has changed," Zavesky said Friday. "If you look at all the agendas, it's really three council members to two."

Garcia and Zermeno did not return phone calls Friday.

Tuesday, two items on the agenda were approved on three-to-two votes, with the two new council members and Liz Holsey voting for the items, and Zavesky and Garcia voting against.

But the real contention seemed to be over two agenda items upon which no action was taken.

Goliad Mayor Anna Machacek placed two items on the agenda that would have limited the city's ability to spend money without council approval. One of the items stipulated council approval for purchases greater than $5,000. The current cap is $50,000, which comes from the state's local government code.

"I think that's too much for a small town," Machacek said. "My feeling is we answer to the people, and it's good for us to know how much is being spent and where it's going."

The council accepted the city administrator's resignation Tuesday, affective at the end of the month.

Under a Type A general-law government, which Goliad operates as, two council vacancies require the council to conduct a special election.

But the resignations of Zavesky and Garcia have not been accepted, a strategy that will allow the council to appoint members to the vacant positions until the May 2015 elections.

Monday, the council will consider accepting the resignation of Zavesky in the first agenda item. They will consider appointment of a council member under a second item and have the opportunity to swear in the council member before accepting the resignation of Garcia, the fifth agenda item.

The strategy is legal under a 2003 attorney general opinion, which addresses the exact situation, said City Attorney Ashford Taylor.

Machacek said she has a recommendation for at least one of the council vacancies but did not place a name Monday's special meeting agenda.

The city administrator position was established in a 2004 ordinance but could be repealed by the council, Taylor said.

Machacek said she's not keen on the day-to-day responsibilities of the city administrator position, which would distract her from her goals as mayor.

"I wasn't after his job. The only thing I was trying to do was have some insight into what we're spending and how we're spending it," Machacek said.

To read the Victoria Advocate's investigative report last year on Goliad's $1 million mess,click here.



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