Kyle updates ethics rules

The potential of having multiple elected officials serve on Kyle’s Ethics Commission led city leaders to change an existing ordinance to avoid the issue. 

Those changes, which were done in August, are meant to “streamline” the ethics commission process and ensure it complies with the city charter, said Kyle Mayor Todd Webster. 

Changes to the city’s current ethics commission were approved by a 6-1 vote on Aug. 15. Kyle City Council member Daphne Tenorio voted against the changes.

Webster said issues first arose after Tenorio sought a declaratory ruling on an ethics complaint made against her by District 1 council member Travis Mitchell. 

See story: Kyle ethics query halted

Mitchell alleged Tenorio had violated the city’s ethics ordinance when she announced the purchase of the Kyle Stallions semi-pro basketball team during the summer. The Stallions were at the time in discussions with Kyle regarding the city’s Kyle Vista Park recreation center and sports complex project. 

However, Tenorio refuted the claims and sought a declaratory ruling, based on the premise she had not purchased the team. 

Problems with the ethics commission arose after it was discovered city ordinance didn’t allow for substantive review of a declaratory ruling, Webster said. He added commission didn’t have the authority to review Tenorio’s ruling, as it “doesn’t assert an actual allegation.” 

Prior to the case against Tenorio, Kyle’s ethics commission had “not really been tested” – only on a few occasions, Webster said. He added the city’s ordinance was “cut and pasted from another city 15 years ago.” 

“She was seeking to get a substantive review and didn’t get one,” Webster said. “We want to make sure if something like this happens, there is not going to be a procedural snag in the wording that prevents the commission from looking at it substantively. 

Council also bolstered existing language that prevents elected officials from serving on the ethics commission. 

That issue came up when Teresa Tobias, who had been appointed to the ethics commission by Daphne Tenorio in 2016, discovered language prohibiting elected officials from serving. 

Teresa Tobias currently serves as the District 1 representative on the Hays CISD board of trustees. Tobias said during an August city council meeting that once she discovered the issue, she immediately informed Kyle’s legal counsel regarding the problem. Since then, she has avoided taking any vote on any ethics commission decisions. 

Ultimately, Teresa Tobias resigned her position as an ethics commission member. 

Webster said no city leaders or officials thought   Tobias had done anything wrong, but he said the changes were made to avoid the appearance of government intrusion.

“We don’t want people to think decisions the ethics commission are making are based on any political affiliations,” Webster said. “The idea is to have people who are independent and outside of the political realm.”

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