By Kim Hilsenbeck
Kyle’s Ethics Commission voted Thursday night to admonish council member Becky Selbera for violating the city’s ethics code when she sought legal assistance from the city’s attorney on campaign finance issues during the spring election cycle.
This marks Selbera’s second ethics complaint since elected to the council more than a decade ago. Both came within the last several years.
Following more than two and a half hours Thursday night of testimony, evidence and discussion, commissioners voted unanimously to recommend a Letter of Admonition for Selbera, saying they came to the conclusion that she unintentionally violated Kyle’s charter by relying on the city attorney.
“A Letter of Admonition is appropriate when the offense is minor,” the commissioners said.
In the most recent complaint, Kyle resident Mike Fulton alleged that Selbera, who was running for re-election at the time, violated the Kyle Code of Ethics when she had city attorney Ken Johnson sit in on an interview with a reporter from the Hays Free Press. The meeting was to discuss an incorrectly filed campaign finance report that terminated her treasurer appointment prematurely, thus violating state election rules.
Reporter Andy Sevilla questioned Selbera on the misfiling. The two then met at city hall to discuss the issue; the meeting took place in Johnson’s office and Sevilla recorded it as is standard journalistic practice. The attorney helped Selbera amend the form for her reelection bid. He also served as Selbera’s mouthpiece during the meeting, as she deferred most of Sevilla’s questions to Johnson.
Requesting his help is explicitly not allowed by the Kyle City Charter, which says, “A city official or employee shall not use, request, or permit the use of city facilities, personnel, equipment, or supplies for private purpose (including political purpose), except: (a) pursuant to duly adopted city policies, or (b) to the extent and according to the terms that those resources are lawfully available to the public,” states Part B, Section 7 of the city’s ethics ordinance. Sevilla wrote an article explaining Selbera’s campaign finance misfiling and included information about Johnson’s involvement. It was after that article came out May 7 that Fulton filed his complaint. He simultaneously filed an ethics complaint against Johnson.
After reading Fulton’s complaints, dated May 12, the ethics commission convened and decided the issue with Selbera warranted further review. The commission determined, however, that the city charter did not extend to Johnson.
But Thursday night, the commission also recommended Johnson receive municipal attorney training and that the city charter be expanded to include the city attorney being held to the same ethics standards as council members.
When asked if she had any reaction to the ruling, Selbera’s private attorney, J.J. Wells with the law firm of Del Prado Dietz of Luling, answered on her behalf, saying, “I don’t think so.”
Fulton said after the ruling he felt his goal was accomplished.
“It’s exactly what I wanted,” he said. “It sets a precedent that city staff cannot be used for campaign issues.”
The above article was updated from when it was originally posted on the Hays Free Press website.