Monthly Archives: March 2019

Former city secretary issues scathing criticism of Baroody’s lawsuit threat

Brenda Craig was Kerrville’s long-time city secretary, recently retired. The city secretary’s job duties include keeping the minutes for all city council meetings, organizing paperwork and documents for the council, publishing agendas, overseeing elections, handling public records requests, and much more. To say that it’s an important job would be an understatement, and Mrs. Craig served Kerrville with distinction in this capacity for 37 years — and then retired in 2018.

Mrs. Brenda Craig, former city secretary (Source: KerrvilleTX.gov)

In this week’s Hill Country Community Journal, Mrs. Craig submitted a letter to the editor that included some scathing criticisms of Councilmember Place 2 George Baroody’s lawsuit threat as well as the councilman’s behavior that led to his removal as Mayor Pro Tem.


In the future, I hope the city releases the dollar amount that we the taxpayer had to pay, including staff time, to respond to such a frivolous case, or maybe Mr. Baroody will pay these costs since it is solely to appease his ego.

Mr. Baroody clearly demonstrated he is not to be trusted with confidential privileged information…

Mr. Baroody wants the citizens/taxpayers/home owners to reelect him to represent us. Not me!

Excerpts from Brenda Craig’s Letter to the Editor in the Hill Country Community Journal on March 20, 2019

Read the entire letter by visiting this link to the HCCJ, or pick up a printed copy at local retail stores.

Report indicates Baroody’s dishonesty as his agenda item was removed on March 12

The Hill Country Community Journal reported yesterday that Baroody was dishonest when he claimed during a March 12 City Council meeting that, “That’s actually not at all what I gave to Mark (McDaniel) to put on the agenda…”The Journal obtained a copy of the email from Baroody to City Manager Mark McDaniel, and the request that Baroody made was reflected verbatim in the agenda topic that was posted for the March 12 meeting.

Baroody’s email stated:


Good Afternoon,

I need to place an executive session item on the agenda for the upcoming March 12th council meeting. There is no staff input needed for this discussion.

The agenda item should be:

Executive Session Allowable under 551.071 consultation with attorney regarding pending or contemplated litigation.

Discussion concerning Kerrville City Council and the Texas Open Meetings Act.

I do not believe I need to or even want to make the agenda item more descriptive but for your understanding I will explain. I am placing this item to have Council review specific examples of the OMA with regards to Kerrville City Council. The justification for the 551.071 consultation is only to be discussing the potential for litigation if Council were to violate the OMA.

I do not wish for this item to be public discussion so as to keep it in house. And it is not my intention to cite anybody or any particular instance, however, if 551.071 is not deemed appropriate to take this discussion into executive session, then I would be forced to utilize/cite 551.974 Personnel Matters to take into executive session.

I am hopeful 551.071 is allowable because as I said, I am not interested in citing a particular person or instance, I feel very strongly that this item needs to be discussed though.

Thanks,

George

(Email from Baroody to McDaniel, as obtained by the Hill Country Community Journal. EDITOR’S NOTE FROM MARCH 22: Email posted in its entirety. Emphasis added by editor.)

Later, the published agenda item read:

Screenshot of agenda for March 12, 2019, City Council Meeting

As you can see, the text of the agenda item is literally verbatim — exactly the same — as the language Baroody requested via email to McDaniel.

During that meeting, staff recommended that the council not enter executive session to discuss this topic, as it was not an honest description of what Baroody wanted to discuss. As City Attorney Mike Hayes explained, “Council can decide. My advice is to put it on another agenda, because I don’t think it captures exactly where you are going now… I also believe, well, I know, 551.071 contemplates consultation with attorney … whether I give you all legal advice or you provide information to me so that I can turn around give you legal advice. I don’t think that’s where you’re [Baroody] intending this discussion to go any more, so my recommendation to council as a whole is to have Mr. Baroody resubmit this and talk about kind of the broader scope that he wants to talk about.”

Baroody claimed he was being “shut down” by staff and council. But in reality, council and staff simply suggested Baroody be honest about what he would like to discuss so as NOT to violate the Open Meetings Act. Instead of “shutting down” the councilman, staff and council suggested that they add it to the next meeting’s agenda with the proper language. Baroody was not shut down.

View this portion of the March 12 meeting below. The video is queued up to begin at 1:16:17. If it doesn’t queue up properly for you, please fast-forward to that timestamp.

Tensions run high at special meeting to discuss Voelkel/Baroody accusations

Live blog of this morning’s council workshop.

Tempers flared on Tuesday morning during a special meeting of City Council that was scheduled to address concerns raised by Councilmembers Voelkel and Baroody about several topics related to codes, platting, and enforcement. The workshop, which lasted approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes, was held in council chambers and broadcast live on the city’s public video channels. The meeting began with reports from city staff, and was followed by questions and discussion from council members, during which time it quickly devolved into finger-pointing, accusations, and hot tempers on the part of Voelkel and Baroody, and to some degree, on the part of staff members.

Mayor Bill Blackburn officiated the meeting, and several times had to interrupt to move discussions forward when they seemed to reach an impasse, such as when Voelkel defended his family surveying business’s platting services and pushed blame onto former City Manager Todd Parton. During that exchange, City Attorney Mike Hayes reminded the council that he has spent several hours on that one issue alone, but he has not been able to make headway with the council members. Blackburn interrupted to move past this point of contention, noting that it’s an issue that has been discussed for months prior, but that likely wouldn’t be resolved today.

Voelkel raised several other issues, and repeatedly badgered staff about whether or not City Hall has “access” to Highways 16 and 27. Deputy City Manager EA Hoppe repeatedly stated that yes, City Hall does have access to the two highways. Whether or not TxDOT would permit additional driveways was another matter. Voelkel continued to question staff’s responses.

Voelkel also questioned the markings and signage for fire lanes at various properties throughout the city, including at Peterson Plaza, River Trail Cottages, and other unnamed projects. He said he just wanted all parties to be treated equally under the law.

When it was Baroody’s turn to ask questions, he initially requested to be skipped saying, “I need to compose myself.” After a short recess, Baroody began a 20-minute discussion (dominated by monologues) in which he accused staff of “making excuses” and not offering solutions. Councilperson Judy Eychner interrupted Baroody during this portion, encouraging him to move on to his questions rather than spend staff’s time on rehashing his numerous complaints. Mayor Blackburn waived Baroody’s time limit and encouraged him to ask all questions he (Baroody) felt were important.

One of Baroody’s first questions had to do with the distinction between boarding homes versus apartment complexes. Director of Development Services Drew Paxton explained the rules and the differences, as defined. Baroody continued to fire questions at Paxton and further questioned the staff’s interpretation of the ordinances. Baroody attempted to slam the door shut after he concluded that staff was wrong and he was right. Paxton and Hayes attempted to correct Baroody’s incorrect assertions, but Baroody preferred to move on to other matters rather then listen to their response to his accusations.

Baroody went on to berate the city staff for the actions of the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding variances. He accused staff of not doing a good enough job of explaining the laws to the volunteer board members. During this portion of Baroody’s monologue, Eychner and Sigerman interrupted Baroody again to find out if he had any questions for the staff, or if he was just continuing to offer his opinions once again. Baroody moved on to another topic without asking any questions of staff on this matter.

Next, Councilmember Baroody moved on to the Chamber of Commerce electronic sign issue. Baroody criticized the Kerrville Daily Times newspaper article and cast aspersions on the city’s report, accusing staff of mis-characterizing the issues regarding the sign. City Manager Mark McDaniel seemed exasperated, stating that he’d already answered these questions many times, but attempted to do so again. Baroody accused McDaniel of being “confused by the words I’m giving you.” Baroody again moved on after seeming to be dissatisfied with the explanation the McDaniel offered.

Baroody admitted that “we’re rehashing things over and over again.” He claimed that he asks questions over and over again but receives different answers every time. “We can tell the answer isn’t quite adding up. What are we supposed to do with that?” McDaniel responded that, “We’ve talked about this at length, both in person and in email. We’ve answered them again and again, and I think you’re just not satisfied with the answers… We haven’t given inconsistent answers.”

After twenty minutes of “discussion” that consisted mostly of Baroody speaking and refusing to accept the staff’s answers, Mayor Blackburn interrupted and asked for Baroody to conclude his statements if he felt he could feel satisfied in doing so. Baroody stated that he wasn’t pleased to be asked to conclude, but he would “play by your rules.” Baroody chastised staff again for failing to provide leadership within the various departments that he accused of having poor processes.

Eychner interjected, stating that Baroody was getting “personal” and that “it seems like you would like to be the manager or the code person… this bothers me very much. This is not what we are supposed to be doing. We’re supposed to be moving our city forward. We’re in the weeds, and we can’t get out of the weeds unless there’s an attitude change here. I’m sorry, but I can’t continue listening to this… you’re bashing [staff]… Let’s move on, build a bridge, and get over all of this.”

Baroody and Eychner traded barbs as Baroody continued his remarks. At one point, Eychner asked City Manager Mark McDaniel how many staff hours were consumed creating this 40-page report discussed today. McDaniel stated that it took around 150 hours to prepare.

Mayor Blackburn interrupted and offered a few brief remarks. “In my 11 months, I’ve seen staff over and over responding to charges and accusations, eating up a lot of time… There’s been a major effort to improve every department in the city… There are some that will never be satisfied with the response from the city. Never. They will argue it from now on… Let’s deal with the problems, but let’s stop re-hashing everything you disagree with. Let’s treat the staff with respect.”

Eychner thanked staff, saying that good things would come out of this process despite the pain. She asked again about the staff time and resources dedicated to the preparation of this report. McDaniel estimated that approximately $11,000 in staff labor and 150 hours were consumed to answer Voelkel and Baroody’s accusations.

“It’s about truth, and it’s about shining light on what happened. I like that you ask questions. But when you ask over and over and over again, it’s difficult,” McDaniel stated.

Sigerman had a handful of specific questions regarding the sign ordinance and permitting process. She went on to question why Baroody refused to meet with the city manager one-on-one, but Baroody would only engage through lengthy emails that seemed to never end. She concluded that the city is “losing time” and would like the city to “move on.”

Judy Eychner offered a three-part motion. The three parts included: 1.) Consultants be asked to expedite review and responses to the sign portion of the codes and bring that back to the code review committee as soon as possible; 2.) Staff be require to provide a report regarding ongoing improvements in the development and permitting processes every two months; 3.) Questions that have been asked and answered today NOT be placed on a future agenda unless done so by the mayor, council majority, or city manager.

The motion passed 3-2 with Blackburn, Sigerman, and Eychner in favor, and Voelkel and Baroody opposed. Baroody accused Eychner of trying to “shut down” himself and Voelkel, but Sigerman and Eychner denied that accusation, noting that the motion would only prevent these specific items from coming back up repeatedly unless they needed to be revisited according to others in addition to Baroody and Voelkel, such as the mayor or one other councilperson.

The meeting adjourned at 11:45 AM.

City staff prepares to address Voelkel/Baroody allegations of inconsistent code enforcement

Tuesday’s agenda consists of only one item.

Over the course of the past several months, council members Vincent Voelkel and George Baroody have raised concerns about inconsistent enforcement of certain city codes and statutes. Although city staff has answered most of their questions several times before (as noted by City Manager Mark McDaniel, witnessed in several recent public meetings, and backed up by various internal emails provided to Kerrville United), the questions came to a head during the February 26 City Council Meeting. A special workshop was called to address these matters, and that meeting will occur this Tuesday morning, March 19, at 10 AM.

A 40-page report was created to supplement Tuesday’s agenda, and a cover letter penned by McDaniel notes that “most of these questions have been answered previously at some point over the last several months, but not all.” McDaniel wishes to “avoid revisiting the same issues so that we can put them behind us and move this city forward.”

The report details several specific matters that have been dealt with by the various city departments in recent months, including:

  • Chamber of Commerce electronic sign
  • River Trail Cottages fire lane
  • River Trail Cottages platting
  • Peterson Plaza fire lane
  • Sports Complex utility easements
  • Comanche Trace annexations
  • City Hall easements
  • Pint & Plow permits and fees
  • Boarding home permits
  • Planning & Zoning Commission variances (several specific variances questioned, including PoPo’s, Peterson Health, Pint & Plow, and Calvary Temple)

In response to Voelkel and Baroody’s often overlapping questions about these matters submitted in two separate emails (found in the appendix of the report), city staff gives detailed answers and reviews of each of the areas of concern. The full report can be viewed as a PDF using the link below.

March 19 Workshop Agenda and Packet (PDF)

Tuesday’s meeting is widely expected to be contentious and possibly heated. Although no public input will be allowed, council members will be able to ask questions of staff and one another concerning the sole agenda item, which reads: “Discussion and Action: Review and Discuss Questions and Responses Regarding Application of Current Codes and Ordinances (Baroody and Voelkel).”

These very public challenges launched by Baroody and Voelkel against staff come in the heat of a contentious political campaign for two city council seats. Baroody is currently serving in Place 2, but is campaigning for Place 1 in the election slated for May 4. Voelkel, who serves in Place 1, is not seeking re-election. Baroody’s opponent for Place 1 is Gary Cochrane, while Kim Clarkson and Mario Garcia (Baroody’s ally) vie for Place 2. Some voters we spoke with worry that much of the discussion on Tuesday will be political grandstanding ahead of the election, but Baroody supporters disagree.

In the lengthy report linked above, some of the responses raise questions of their own about the challengers’ actions in dealing with the matters at hand. For instance, on page 5, Voelkel asks questions about the platting and access issues for City Hall property. In response, the author says that Voelkel’s family business, Voelkel Land Surveying, made a platting error that contributed to the confusion on the City Hall land. Then, the author claims, the city negotiated a remedy to the access issues mentioned by Voelkel, but Voelkel’s attempts to widen the negotiations caused the deal to break down. The final resolution is still stalled.

Portions of the report also suggest that these issues have been discussed ad nauseam with Baroody and Voelkel. For instance, when answering Baroody’s questions about the Chamber of Commerce electronic sign, the author states, “As communicated with the Councilmember on numerous occasions…” and then goes on to explain the details. Later, the report states:

“The city attorney [Mike Hayes] has had an extensive discussion about this issue with Councilmembers Voelkel and Baroody. While their arguments are understood, their position is neither reasonable in his opinion, nor do they take into account all of the issues.”

Page 11 of the Agenda Packet

The report states that there is room for improvement in some areas, and some corrections and enhancements have already been made. For instance, outdated software is scheduled to be updated or replaced in April. And some problems don’t have an immediate solution. However, staff has already made changes to improve certain processes, according to the report.

Tuesday morning’s meeting can be viewed live at the link below beginning at 10 AM that day. Recorded versions should be available on YouTube later in the day. Another meeting is scheduled at 4:00 PM — a joint meeting between City Council and the Planning & Zoning Commission — to discuss code review.

Watch Council Meeting Live @ 10 AM Tuesday morning

In addition to our coverage, the Kerrville Daily Times article on this subject may be found here: http://dailytimes.com/promotions/article_59cc1160-47a9-11e9-b725-b7c4e41a6176.html

Campaign FAQ: How do you identify along party lines?

As our national and state politics become more and more polarized, candidates are often confronted with this question in local elections: Which ones are Republicans and which ones are Democrats? The correct answer is… complicated.

The short answer is that our city’s charter forbids partisan labels for city council races and for city council members on the dais. Section 3.01 of the city’s charter states that all elected members “shall assume the duties of office without party or partisan mark or designation.”

Kerrville voters may recall the issue arising in the 2014 mayoral election in which Jack Pratt used campaign yard signs with the “R” designation, leading some voters to conclude that Pratt was the only Republican in the race. Councilperson Stacie Keeble moved to hold Pratt in violation of the ethics policy but no action was taken by city council. Still, the consensus of the council in that discussion was that the use of partisan designations violates the spirit of the ethics law and the charter.

In fact, only about 20% of US cities have partisan elections.

“According to the National League of Cities, the argument for non-partisan elections is that it makes party politics irrelevant and increases the odds that council and board members from opposite parties will work together.”


The Partisans Are Coming for Your Cities and Schools, Texas Monthly, May 5, 2017

As we’ve stated on this site before, almost all of the issues that council deals with are not partisan in the least. Potholes have no party. Providing clean water is not a Republican or Democratic idea. Maintaining a professional police force and fire department is not conservative or liberal ideology.

Taxation, budgeting, and spending is an area where a conservative or liberal ideology may color a candidate’s views. Kerrville has a long history of conservative financial management. The council has set backstops and limits and rainy day funds to help keep us on course and within our means. Our finance department regularly receives awards for excellent budgeting and financial management. See our video about the budget for more detail. The conclusion to draw here is that Kerrville has a long history of prudent financial management with no signal that this will change anytime in the future.

Despite the fact that most of the issues are nonpartisan, some voters insist upon understanding the ideology of each candidate on a left-versus-right spectrum, or a Republican-or-Democrat scorecard. Candidates have been known to loft charges at one another, accusing another candidate of being a Democrat or a liberal. Those charges are meant to hurt the opposing candidate since we live in a county that voted overwhelmingly Republican for at least the past two decades. By painting the opposition as an “outsider,” the candidate hurling that charge hopes to prey on those who don’t understand the nonpartisan nature of our local government.

We are not immune from the hyper-partisan rumor mill in this 2019 election cycle. Recently, a well-known political group announced Baroody and Garcia as “the conservative candidates” in the race. An invitation to a meet and greet at a private home called on guests to “join us to meet the conservative choices for City Council in the upcoming May election, George Baroody and Mario Garcia.”

We haven’t had a chance to sit down and interview the candidates yet, but there is another way to glean some insight into the candidates’ political affiliations, and that’s via their voting records in party primary elections. In fact, the candidates’ entire voting history is public and is insightful to learn not only which party they have voted for in the past, but also how often they vote, giving insight into the importance they place on government and politics and citizenship in their daily lives.

We pulled the voting records of each candidate for all elections in Kerr County going back several years. (NOTE: Election histories don’t tell us WHO the candidates voted for — only that they CAST A BALLOT in the election.)

City Council candidates’ voting histories for the past several Republican Party elections held in Kerr County, Texas.

The chart above shows the voting history of each city council candidate for Republican-only elections held over the past several cycles. As you can see, Garcia, touted as “the conservative choice,” has not voted in any Republican election over the past three years. However, his opponent, Kim Clarkson, voted in two out of three Republican Party elections since 2016.

The Place 1 candidates are also shown, and Mr. Cochrane has voted more consistently in Republican elections than his opponent George Baroody, but somehow Baroody has been advertised as the Republican in the race.

So, according to this publicly available data, Cochrane and Clarkson are actually more consistent Republican voters than are Baroody or Garcia.

Should we draw conclusions about their political ideology based only on voting history alone? Of course not. But until we have forums and interviews, this is a good reference to be aware of — especially if a voter is interested in a candidate’s commitment to a certain political party.


City Council candidates’ voting histories for the past several City of Kerrville municipal elections.

Even if we’re not looking at these histories to glean their ideology, we can look at these histories to find some insight into the candidates’ personal priorities and their civic engagement. The chart above shows the voting history for each candidate in citywide elections going back to 2014. As you can see, Cochrane and Baroody share the same voting history. However, Mr. Garcia only began voting in city elections in 2018, whereas his opponent Kim Clarkson has cast a ballot in every city race going back at least as far as 2014.

What should the average voter glean from this information? We think several takeaways are important here:

  • City elections are nonpartisan for good reason; and the city’s charter insists upon governing in a nonpartisan manner
  • Keeping city elections nonpartisan assures that the issues and the candidates are at the forefront of the debate — not the leaders of any political parties
  • Don’t believe any rumors about party affiliation or commitment to a particular party
  • Don’t believe any rumors about a candidate being conservative or liberal
  • Find out about the candidates for yourself by speaking with them, attending forums, reading their campaign marketing materials, and asking questions
  • Not all candidates have placed the same emphasis on civic engagement over the years
  • Use this information as a starting point to gather more information; not as conclusions in themselves

NOTE: All election histories were obtained from Kerr County Elections Department over the years from 2014 to present, and are publicly available.

The last day to register to vote for the city council election is April 4. Early voting begins April 22, and Election Day is May 4.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, we incorrectly stated that a voter must be a member of a party to vote in that party’s primary. One of our savvy readers pointed out that we no longer have required party membership in Texas. Of course, you can only vote in one party’s primary per calendar year. See the Texas Secretary of State’s website for more information about party affiliations.

Baroody threatens city with lawsuit while actively campaigning for city council

An article in the March 13 edition of theHill Country Community Journal describes an email from George Baroody’s attorney addressed to Kerrville City Attorney Mike Hayes. In the letter, Austin-based lawyer Roger Gordon informed Mike Hayes that he has been retained by Baroody “in relation to the City of Kerrville’s official action arising from an alleged violation of the ‘ethics policy’…”.

The letter has been described as a threat of a forthcoming lawsuit against the City of Kerrville. According to our sources, the attorney representing Baroody is the same attorney that has represented former mayor Bonnie White in the past.

City Councilperson Place 2, George Baroody (Image from City of Kerrville Website)

Mr. Baroody currently serves on City Council Place 2, and is seeking election to City Council Place 1 in the May 2019 election. This is the first time in memory that a council member, or a candidate seeking office to council, has been engaged in a potential lawsuit against the City of Kerrville. In other words, Mr. Baroody seeks to serve as an elected official to a government body that he is actively pursuing litigation against.

Mr. Baroody has been actively campaigning for City Council alongside Mario Garcia, a candidate for Place 2. Baroody and Garcia have made public appearances together to support one another’s campaigns, and Mr. Baroody has been campaigning door to door in recent days. Baroody’s opponent is Gary Cochrane, and Garcia’s opponent is Kim Clarkson.

In the newspaper article that hit newsstands today, author Tammy Prout describes the backstory that led to Mr. Baroody being stripped of Mayor Pro Tem status and being banned from all further discussions in the Lotus Peer Recover lawsuit. See our article titled, “Baroody stripped of ‘Mayor Pro Tem’ status” dated November 8, 2018, for a detailed account of those proceedings and actions.

To summarize those proceedings from fall of 2018, Mr. Baroody attempted to make contact with the plaintiff’s attorney despite advice that he should not do so. The plaintiff’s attorney contacted City Attorney Mike Hayes to inform him of the attempted contact, and council then stripped him of the Mayor Pro Tem status and barred him from any further discussions about the lawsuit.

According to the Journal’s article published Wednesday, Mr. Baroody did not respond to requests for comment by press time. We will provide updates to this developing story as they become available.