Dais dispute over commission appointees

Opinions over qualifications to serve on boards and commissions swirled Dec. 5 as city leaders clashed over appointments to its Ethics and Planning and Zoning Commissions.

The Kyle City Council ultimately voted down the appointment of resident Marco Pizana to the ethics commission by a 2-5 vote, but not without heated debate. Council members Alex Villalobos and Daphne Tenorio both voted in favor of the appointment.

Villalobos, who nominated Pizana, said he chose him for the Ethics Commission based his body of work, which includes his current position as a Hays CISD employee.

Dex Ellison, who ran against Pizana in the Nov. 7 District 1 election, said, while Pizana has good moral character, he didn’t believe he was an appropriate fit. Ellison said his concerns extended to Pizana openly stating he intended to run for public office again.

Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell said the ethics commission was designed to be separate from the city council and city staff. Mitchell said those who serve on the ethics commission are called upon as the “arbiter of ethics” and to decide if any violations are committed.

“This is one commission where such an ambition could create a conflict and a perception problem,” Mitchell said. “While I believe Marco would approach situations judiciously, the perception problems have been difficult for me to get over.”

City council members then sparred over the appointment of Paul Scheibmeir to fulfill Ellison’s unexpired term on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which was approved by a 6-1 vote.

Tenorio, who was the lone council member that cast a dissenting vote, was concerned about the appointment and how it didn’t fully represent all districts of the city. Tenorio claimed five P&Z members would hail from the city’s west side, with only two commissioners from the east side.

Tenorio also had issues with the vetting process the city takes to name P&Z commissioners. Tenorio said she advocated for a random drawing for open seats.

Tenorio’s request drew ire from Ellison, who advocated for commissioners who are “qualified and people who understand the material that is brought forth.” Ellison said there is “definitely a learning curve” for those who wish to serve on city boards or commissions.

However, Ellison agreed the city could think more about representation on the P&Z dais in future appointments.

“I worked my butt off to catch up to the curve,” Ellison said. “I was honored and humbled to be appointed and I took it seriously. It’s no easy task and we need people.”

Kyle Council Member Tracy Scheel said while equal representation would be nice, the “qualification of a person is much more important.”

Mitchell said the city had “many qualified applicants” in its search to fill the vacant P&Z seat. He said Scheibmeir was the city’s “best, most qualified candidate.”

Kyle’s process for prospective P&Z commissioners, per city ordinance, involves an interview with the mayor, city manager and community development director or their appointee.

Tenorio, however, said she felt the process was “inappropriate” and that the city could disqualify people.

“All of the applicants were deserving. We get to choose one and we chose the person who we felt best embodied the ideals and qualifications that met criteria,” Mitchell said.

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