Board releases employees from contracts due to ‘hostile environment’
Three of four employees of the Buda Economic Development Corporation (EDC) will be gone by May, and it’s through no fault of their own.
The Buda EDC Board of Directors released Ann Miller, EDC Executive Director, from her contract. In addition, Adriana Nunez-McDermott, retail and marketing coordinator, and Kim Collins, Planner II economic development specialist, are leaving the EDC.
Collins’ last day was April 22, and the other two will be leaving effective May 3.
The board of trustees passed a resolution April 15 stating that through “no fault of Ms. Miller, BEDC staff, or the Board, a hostile work environment exists regarding Ms. Miller and potentially other members of the BEDC staff.”
The board voted to give Miller and other staff members severance pay and to release them from their contracts.
The resolution said the board released Miller and her staff at “no-fault” because the EDC board could not provide a non-hostile working environment.
In a statement from the city of Buda, David Marino, Buda Public Information Officer, wrote, “The City of Buda was surprised to hear of the termination of Executive Director Ann Miller and two of her staff members by Buda EDC President Jose Montoya. The City previously raised concerns to the Buda EDC Board regarding Ms. Miller’s workplace behavior but never sought her dismissal. No concerns were raised by the City of Buda regarding the behavior or performance of the other two terminated employees.”
The situation with the EDC comes after several years of back-biting and fighting among city staff, the Buda council and the EDC. Miller was accused through the city attorney by staff as being aggressive, rude, defensive and offensive.
The city attorney on Jan. 11, 2019 sent a letter to EDC President Jose Montoya asking the board to deal with the city’s concerns. In city attorney George Hyde’s letter, he said Miller “displayed erratic behavior while working with City employees and in public, including ‘demands, actions, intrusions and outbursts,’ that she is ‘unhinged’ and exhibits anger and more.
An investigation into the situation and the accusations were completed by Sheila Gladstone with Lloyd Gosselink, Attorneys at Law, and a report was sent in March to Monte Akers, attorney for the EDC regarding the situation.
Gladstone’s memorandum reports that all accusations and allegations regarding Miller’s workplace behavior were unsubstantiated and false.
“Rather, the investigation found that Miller is a top-rate economic developer who has good relations with City employees, and who has not behaved in a manner described in the Hyde letter,” Gladstone wrote.
Montoya, the EDC president, said late Tuesday, “I hated to do that (pass the resolution allowing Miller out of her contract), but the situation cannot continue.
“It is counter-productive for the EDC and the city to be butting heads all the time.”
Montoya said that he believed Miller to be a strong personality and a good employee.
“We value her and still value her,” he said. “Ann has done a fantastic job.”
After a pause, Montoya added, “Now … she is a little bit straight-forward, she cuts to the chase, and she doesn’t mince words. Someone who might not like a strong female could take it all the wrong way.”
John Hatch, a member of the EDC board, said he enjoyed filling an unexpired term on the board.
“The EDC Staff, an all-woman team, led by Executive Director Ann Miller, was a pleasure to work with. Ms. Miller’s team took us from a reserve balance in 2013 of less than $800,000 to more than $4 million dollars today, while at the same time shrinking our debt from $3.3 million dollars to slightly more than $1.2 million.”
Hatch said that Miller was nationally recognized by the Development Counselors International as one of its “40 under 40” award winners.
She is a hard worker and has brought in many businesses to Buda, Hatch said, adding that he was disappointed about the accusations against her.
“The EDC Board voted to release the full and unredacted version of the Investigative report – warts and all. I encourage each member of the Council and all citizens of Buda to read both reports in their entirety, so that answers to questions regarding the real reasons behind these claims against Ms. Miller and the EDC can be found,” he said.
Miller, Collins and Nunez-McDermott are all employees of the EDC and are hired by the EDC. The EDC board is appointed by the city council. A continuing battle over the EDC bylaws and its membership – how many Buda council members could be on the EDC board, if the board MUST have council members, and how many Buda residents can be on the board – are all under review at this time.
Marino told the Hays Free Press in a statement, “When the Buda EDC does not respond to concerns of the governing board, there must be action taken as when any board appointed by the Buda City Council refuses to deal in good faith and respond to the City Council’s direction.”
Members of the city council and the mayor have pointed out that they did not require the EDC to release Miller from her contract, rather they wanted the EDC board to “rein her in.”
In Hyde’s letter in January, he said, “I have been charged by the Buda City Council to both inform you and to seek your assistance in mitigating the situation.”
Montoya said that the situation is unfortunate. “I’ve always had this town in my heart and I want to make sure it grows properly.”
Buda Mayor George Haehn said that the decision to release Miller was made by the board and Miller herself.
“I wish her the best as she moves forward in her career,” he said.
It is expected that changes to the Buda EDC board will come soon, with some of the current members not being reappointed by the Buda City Council.
“The City of Buda is disappointed in the actions of President Montoya and the Buda Economic Development Board and is seeking ways to make this a viable board of the City of Buda again,” Marino wrote in a statement, saying that the city “is concerned by the Buda EDC’s unsubstantiated statements and allegations regarding the City’s oversight responsibility of the Buda EDC.”