Buda bolsters defenses as complaint looms

As a Texas Workforce Commission complaint looms, Buda elected officials June 4 passed an agreement aimed at bolstering the city’s defenses.

By a 5-0 vote, the Buda City Council approved a Joint Defense and Allied Litigant agreement involving the city and the Buda Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Mayor Pro Tem Wiley Hopkins and council member Evan Ture were absent from the meeting and did not vote.

Buda Mayor George Haehn said the agreement between the two entities is meant to create a “joint defense” against any claims made by previous personnel who might have worked with the EDC. Haehn did not specifically identify who the previous EDC employee was.

“It’s an agreement between the two entities to mutually defend each other,” Haehn said.

Exact details of the agreement, however, were not made available to the Hays Free Press prior to press time. The Hays Free Press submitted an open records request to Buda city officials for a formal copy of the agreement. City officials did not respond to the request as of Tuesday.

Haehn said part of the agreement would allow the city and the EDC to share documentation in the event one or the other is “attacked and sued.”

It is unknown at this time if formal litigation has been filed against the city or the EDC. In April, former Buda EDC Executive Director Ann Miller filed a TWC complaint against Buda, citing a hostile workplace environment stemming from months of backbiting between the two entities.

According to sources, Buda’s EDC, a Type 4B corporation separate from the city, has not been named in the TWC complaint.

Sources told the Hays Free Press that Buda officials, as well as an attorney assigned to them by the Texas Municipal League (TML) meant to assist with Miller’s complaint, proposed the agreement.

Buda city council member Lee Urbanovsky said the agreement allows the city and the EDC to work together on the pending litigation and possibly save funds.

Urbanovsky said the “expectation it is potentially going to involve” the city and EDC both being named in the complaint.

“It could allow us to work together to resolve the issues that are outstanding now,” Urbanovsky said.

However, Buda elected officials maintained the city and the EDC are two separate entities. Both Urbanovsky and Haehn said the city is not trying to take control of the EDC, which some have alleged in recent weeks.

Haehn said he didn’t understand how the city is a part of the complaint, either. The Hays Free Press reported in April Miller saying the TWC had identified her as a Buda city employee.

“The Texas Workforce Commission complaint is for a hostile work environment or whatever, but if you don’t work for the city, how can you say the city is causing the hostile environment,” Haehn said.

Tumult continues within Buda EDC
But the move comes amid continued change within the Buda EDC and its board of directors. On June 3, Buda EDC’s board voted 5-0 to remove Akers & Akers as its legal counsel, while also entering into a request for proposal process to find its next attorney. Following those decisions, the EDC board voted 5-0 to enter into the joint defense agreement.

Monte Akers, principal at Akers and Akers, said there was “mutual agreement” between him and EDC board members that it was “awkward” for him to represent them all as their legal counsel. Akers said Jennifer Storm, who was named as the new EDC board president in April, cited tension between Akers and current city attorney George Hyde one reason for changing legal counsel. Akers said the claim caught him off guard.

Storm did not provide comment on the reason behind the change of attorney or the EDC board entering into the joint agreement.

“Lawyers disagree all the time and that’s the nature of the business,” Akers said. “The City Attorney and I have a different style of practicing law. That’s not unusual in our profession. I didn’t regard that as being a source of tension, but perhaps he does.”

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