By Brittany Anderson
KYLE – With a 5-2 vote, the Kyle City Council approved the extension of city manager Scott Sellers’ contract through December 2025 on April 5. The vote included any amendments made by the council
Council members Yvonne Flores-Cale and Michael Tobias, the two dissenting votes, voiced their concerns with the contract, with both saying they felt the dais needed more time to review the contract.
Mayor Travis Mitchell, however, said that the original draft of the contract was presented on March 1, and that council members were given the opportunity to provide feedback to Sellers in order to try to come to a consensus before voting.
Two issues Tobias brought up were in regards to the contract’s policy on the city manager’s sabbatical leave and health insurance, and said that constituents had also mentioned these concerns to him as well.
The contract states that in “recognition of the city manager’s extremely demanding work schedule … the council wishes to allow him extended leave time” by granting 90 days of continuous paid sabbatical leave during the contract period.
During this time, the city manager will not be on call for routine business. An interim city manager will be authorized to act on his behalf, but the city manager will still be expected to be available to deal with any extraordinary situations that arise.
Tobias said he was looking at the situation “very objectively” and not trying to discredit what Sellers has done for the city or employees.
“The way I look at it [the sabbatical], why can’t you use earned sick/vacation/holiday time for any of that like any other regular employee to be fair and equal on that end?” Tobias said.
Sellers said that if it was council’s prerogative to make the amendment, it would be something he is willing to discuss.
“I believe in the seven and a half years I’ve been here, I haven’t taken more than two weeks of vacation at one time,” Sellers said. “There’s really not a single day I’ve taken a vacation from the city. I work every day. Weekends; when I’m on vacation. City managers do not have the luxury to take vacation. We’re always on.”
Mayor Pro Tem Robert Rizo said that the contract should be clarified so “no one is worried you’re taking 90 days [of sabbatical]per year,” since this would be on top of the already-allocated paid sick/vacation/holiday time.
“I know when you’re out of pocket, we still call you. This is a very active council and we’re definitely always in your ear,” Rizo said. “I guess those having reservations with the 90 days would like to see that broken down to maybe 30 days per year in the contract … that way it’s justified to three weeks a year.”
A motion to amend the contract to break up the sabbatical leave was moved by Mitchell and seconded by Rizo, and carried 7-0.
Regarding health insurance, the contract states that the city will pay the premiums for health, hospitalization, vision, dental and comprehensive medical insurance for the city manager and his/her qualified dependents. The city will provide these benefits at no cost to the manager or his dependents upon retirement if the manager continues employment through at least March 2025, or retires on or after March 2025. The benefits will stop when the manager and their dependents reach the age of full Medicare eligibility.
“Once you retire, the taxpayers of Kyle would have to continuously have you on a payroll for insurance for any dependents,” Tobias said. “If there’s a way for us to look at this and really dissect it to make it fair, not just for you, Mr. Sellers, but for everybody else … this is a representation of our city and our taxpayer money.”
Flores-Cale said she didn’t believe the dais had enough time to discuss the contract, that as a group had discussed it for “maybe 30 minutes,” and said that had she had more time, her “vote would hopefully be a lot different.”
“I’m kind of sad and disappointed that we did not get a fair opportunity for each council member to discuss their concerns and issues,” Flores-Cale said. “I’m equally disappointed that my concerns and issues were put on the back burner and I’m being forced to vote right now. I don’t find it fair that you’re requesting us to take a vote on information we don’t have, or conversations we haven’t spoken about.”
Council member Dex Ellison said that council blocked out “an hour or so” during one executive session to discuss the contract amongst all seven members. A few weeks later, they had another 30 to 45 minute discussion, excluding Tobias, who had to leave early.
“There’s been documentation pulled. I have a good sense in myself, and we all have to make that decision for ourselves,” Ellison said. “There’s going to be give and take. Let’s start making motions and get the contract that we feel is best for our city. I do not want to look at this budget after a budget season. This should be decided prior to budget season.”
Tobias moved that the city manager agree to cover his cost of insurance to qualified dependents upon retirement, or at least up until 2025 which is when his current contract is set to expire, and to remove health benefits for qualified dependents upon age of eligibility. The motion was seconded by Flores-Cale. The motion, however, failed 2-5, so the amendment to the contract was not made.
Mitchell earlier reiterated his pride for Sellers’ work and accomplishments, citing his work ethic and ability to put together good deals that work in the city’s best interest.
“I understand that there will be desires to go down various paths to potentially delay [the vote], but as far as I’m concerned, there are a lot of reasons to continue moving forward with the manager we have,” Mitchell said.