Hays County census coordinator removed

By Chase Rogers

Hays County Census Coordinator Jessica Mejia has been terminated by her supervisor after miscommunication during an executive session of the Hays County Commissioners Court.

Mejia was scheduled to give a presentation on Tuesday updating the court on 2020 Census efforts by the county, but instead ended up providing a letter to the court concerning her termination.

Anita Collins, executive assistant to the county judge, spoke during Mejia’s scheduled time and stated the presentation would not be given, instead recounting recent outreach efforts by Mejia in the last days in the role. Collins then read the letter from Mejia to the court.

The letter described Mejia’s recent work creating public service announcements, conducting outreach to hard-to-
count communities and unforeseen complications, professional and personal, due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Mejia wrote she was informed by her supervisor, Director of Countywide Services Tammy Crumley, and a human resources representative of the county commissioners’ decision in executive session to remove the census coordinator position.

“I was told (Monday, May 4) that I would have a couple of weeks to work before this position would be done away with altogether,” Mejia wrote. “(I was told) that I was re-hirable and not being terminated but that they wanted to use the funds for marketing and more usefully.”

General Counsel Mark Kennedy, who provides legal counsel for the court, stated that no termination occurred
during the executive session described in Mejia’s letter, as the court is unable to take action in executive session pursuant to the Texas Open Meeting Act.

Commissioner Walt Smith moved to open item 48 and move it from executive session to open court as it was concerning “counsel and deliberation regarding all individual positions in the Hays County Office of Countywide
Operations.”

After further counsel from Kennedy, County Judge Ruben Becerra said Mejia should be present before any further discussion on the item. Becerra, agreeing with Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, felt moving the discussion
to next week to include Mejia was the proper route.

Smith interjected, stating he should be able to speak on his item and describing a commitment made by Becerra to notify Mejia of their decision that Becerra failed to uphold.

“I came to talk specifically about the conversation that was in the executive session last week … What’s upsetting to me is that in that executive session there was a commitment by (Judge Becerra) to notify Ms. Mejia of what our decision was. We as a court, because of the stress of this pandemic and the things that we know she had to go through which were shared with us, made it very clear that we wanted to be an avenue of assistance … the conversation that was committed to in executive session never happened,” Smith said, then motioning to pull
the item to be discussed next week. “At the end of the day, there was a failure on this court. An absolute
abject failure.”

Smith added that, in the described executive session, Becerra had stated that the court should “Just fire her, then.” Becerra stated this comment was made in response to the tone of the commissioners when discussing the
subject.

“I said ‘yes, let’s just fire her,’ because I saw the effort. I heard the conversation and I saw the commissioner’s agenda item,” Becerra said. “The tone and the tempo was bright. It was loud. It was clear … I feel that and you
can’t argue with feelings, but I feel that politics has taken the place of public safety.”

Ask by Becerra to explain her understanding of the executive session meeting, Crumley stated she understood she was to give Mejia her two weeks, her last day slated for May 12, and communicated that with Ingalsbe.

“I communicated with Commissioner Inglesbe that I did have a meeting with (Mejia) planned for Monday (to discuss the court’s decision),” Crumley said to Becerra. “You gave me a direction to fire her. I didn’t take it as a
joke or a ‘that you’re just kidding’.”

In her letter, Mejia pleaded to the commissioners to retain the census coordinator position and volunteered to assist in training any new hires should the commissioners choose to replace her. At the time of writing this
article, Mejia could not be reached for comment.

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