County shoots down revolving door policy

Lingering issues on a four-year plan aimed at limiting the involvement of former officials in county business led Hays County leaders to ultimately shoot down the proposed policy April 23.

Instead, Hays County Commissioners will seek additional disclosure methods that will be introduced in the future. 

The diplomatic compromise followed two weeks of deliberation on the implementation of the policy, which was crafted by County Judge Ruben Becerra and Chief of Staff Alex Villalobos. The revolving door policy would have prohibited former county elected officials from conducting business with the county for four years, a measure Beccera said would promote transparency and a level playing field for contractors. However, commissioners scrapped the policy and instead opted for a disclosure form for any individual previously employed by the county. This disclosure form will provide the court with any potential conflicts of interests for the elected officials to take into account when deliberating contracts.

Hays County Pct. 4 Commissioner Walt Smith addressed his concerns about the logistics of a revolving door policy. 

“I almost feel like we’re searching for a problem to find a solution at this point,” Smith said. 

Smith said there are previously elected officials who have in-depth knowledge with the intricacies of the county and argued their knowledge is a benefit to the taxpayer.

“Yet, because of this, they are completely prohibited from being a part of the process and that’s a concern for me,” Smith said.

Debbie Ingalsbe, Hays County Pct. 1 Commissioner, asked if the county had the authority to implement such measures. 

General Counsel Mark Kennedy said the court only has authority granted by the legislature and has limited authority compared to that of a home rule city.

However, Travis County has adopted some similar measures that include limitations on discretionary contracts and its purchasing policy as part of its disclosure policy. 

Commissioners directed staff to draft a disclosure form that will be sent to the court for approval. This form would inform the commissioners of any potential conflicts of interest, which they can address on the dais. 

Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell said disclosure is “not to say you can’t hire them,” but is to “be transparent of who it is.”

“And if you believe there is a true conflict, if you believe there is something that does risk the taxpayer, then you know about it, so when you’re making those evaluations, you consider it,” Shell said.

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