by ANDY SEVILLA
Kyle has dimmed the light on government transparency with the end of the city manager’s informative Friday letter.
Every Friday afternoon, council members could expect to receive a letter from City Manager Lanny Lambert, a practice he has executed throughout his career, detailing his schedule for a two-week period, what new businesses came into town, what permits were granted and the city’s sales tax collections, among a plethora of issues of concern to Kyle.
That practice was ended as the New Year rang in.
“Our new city attorney has advised me that a potential exists for the disclosure of confidential information regarding personnel, advice from the city attorneys, advice for the city’s lawsuits, that in my effort to communicate with the council could be inadvertently released to the public, through the news media, through the letter,” Lambert said. “He advises that I no longer communicate with the council in that way, and I’ve accepted his advice. He’s the expert on the Open Meetings Law.”
The Hays Free Press, too, has been a recipient of Lambert’s weekly letter since August 24, 2012 and that resource faded after the Jan. 4, 2013 communication.
But, not only is the information being kept from the media, council members, too, are confounded by the resource’s end.
“I personally liked the Friday letter and personally thanked (Lambert) for doing it, because it gave us all a summation of what’s happening in Kyle,” said Council Member David Wilson, cautioning that he, too, understood potential legal ramifications.
Council Member Samantha Bellows-LeMense said she was not aware of any information being released in the city manager’s Friday letter that would not have been otherwise presented to the public.
“We’re still getting the information, which is a plus, it’s just more spread out,” LeMense said. “It’s a little inconvenient, but in all honestly, as long as I get the information then that’s all that really matters to me – whether it be in a Friday letter or whether it be in individual letters.”
Wilson said council has not discussed the future of the Friday letter, but for now, evidently, it has been put on hold. He said “it just happened,” one day he just did not receive the awaited communication “that kept (him) up to date” on matters of interest.
As he understands it, Wilson said council will in the future discuss the dissemination of information, maintaining in the forefront that there are legal quandaries that must be addressed.
City Attorney Julian Grant, who once headed the Local Government Affairs Section of the Attorney General’s Office, was tight-lipped about recommending the Friday letter’s end, but said “internal communications will remain (at City Hall).”
Grant said personnel matters, attorney-client privilege and other sensitive material must be protected in the city’s interest.
Wilson said Lambert’s letter kept him organized, and in late 2012, council members directed Lambert to keep them abreast of issues in Kyle through the Friday letter. Council Member Diane Hervol particularly took issue with feeling uninformed on certain matters and having details falling through the cracks.
Lambert said that throughout his career he’s presented councils in various cities with his Friday letter in an effort to keep council members cognizant on the multitude of city affairs.
“The city manager that I worked for in 1979, communicated with his council in that way, so I have used that as advice in most of my cities,” Lambert said. “However, the laws have substantially changed since 1979, and I probably have not kept abreast.”
- On heels of Kyle attorney’s ousting, Friday letter is back 03/14/2013
- Kyle city attorney asked to resign 03/6/2013
- City of Kyle narrows attorney search 11/7/2012