Tempers flare over reimbursement discussions in Wimberley

Exacerbated sighs and furrowed brows were plentiful Feb. 7 as Wimberley city leaders sparred over reimbursement of a computer purchase made by Mayor Susan Jaggers.

But what started as a discussion turned into an argumentative standoff between Jaggers, council members and city staff.

At the center of debate was a desktop computer purchased by Jaggers, who wanted the city to reimburse her around $900 for it. Jaggers purchased the computer after citing that she needed a new one for city related work. The computer was to be placed in the mayor’s office at Wimberley City Hall.

Prior to discussion and action on the item, however, Jaggers refused to recuse herself from the dais. Jaggers was prompted, per Texas Local Government Code, to leave city hall so as to avoid a conflict of interest. The reimbursement request was ultimately denied by city leaders.

During discussion on the request, Shawn Cox, Wimberley city administrator, said the city’s IT company informed staff that a computer was purchased by Jaggers and subsequently billed to the city.

However, Cox informed the company he did not authorize the purchase of the computer.

Wimberley City Council member Craig Fore said if Jaggers brought the item to council before a purchase was made, it could have been approved, if it was found to be prudent. Fore said Jaggers had purchased a computer “without authorization once already.”

“You don’t avoid the rules just because you think you need it,” Fore said. “Nobody on this city council can go out and buy a computer and expect to be reimbursed for it. It’s not the right way you do things.”

Council member Allison Davis said she has tried to allocate money to the budget specifically for technology upgrades, which she felt has been a struggle for the past two years.

“We’re spending a lot of money and we keep saying we’re extremely poor,” Davis said. “Staff works here full-time and their technology isn’t up to par.”

Davis said if the item went through “proper channels,” the money could have been “better spent.”

“We (city council) weren’t involved and there was no oversight,” Davis said.

After discussion, Davis made a motion to deny the reimbursement, citing that the mayor did not follow proper channels to get the purchased approved.

The motion to deny reimbursement moved ahead as the result of a locked 2-2 vote. Jaggers could not vote on the item.

Cox said the city attorney confirmed that the reimbursement request failed.

Upon returning to the dais, Jaggers argued that as the presiding officer of the budget, the city council approved her budget, which includes allocated funds for office equipment.

Jaggers said “it was an illegal vote” after learning the reimbursement request had been denied.

“You’re the budget officer and that means you prepare the budget,” Fore said. “Once that budget is approved, that man right over there (Cox) becomes the new operator of the budget. Not you, him.”

Jaggers argued that Chapter 102 of the Local Government Code outlines the mayor as the budget officer. However, Item B of Chapter 102 states that “if the municipality has the city manager form of government, the city manager serves at the budget officer.”

In Wimberley, the city administrator holds the administrative duties, including oversight of the city’s funds, as outlined on the city website.

On Jan. 9, the Wimberley City Council approved ordinance changes that enhanced the effectiveness and efficiencies of the Office of the City Administrator. According to city ordinance, the mayor serves a ceremonial position in government and does not have similar administrative powers as the City Administrator.

Jaggers, however, continued to converse on the item at hand, stating that she “is the presiding officer, so you’re going to have to hear me out.”

Mayor Pro Tem Gary Barchfeld and Cox said the discussion was “out of order” as a vote was already cast.

The News-Dispatch has been in communication with the Texas Attorney General’s office over the proceedings of the meeting.

“You can’t expect people to come down here and volunteer hours and hours and not have equipment to work with, and not reimburse them with the necessary equipment to do the minimum requirements of the job,” Jagger said.

A motion by Barchfeld ended debate, which was unanimously passed by the council.

“Alright, we’ll bring this up (in the future), but y’all are going to reimburse me for that,” Jaggers said.

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