Paden City Council unanimously approved raises for several part-time positions at a Dec. 12 special meeting: crossing guard, from $216 monthly to $250 monthly; dispatchers, from $7.25 per hour to $8.85 per hour; and cleaning, from $7.25 per hour to $8.85 per hour.
Prior to the vote Councilman Dan Probst asked if they had the money to cover these proposed raises.
"There's not a real problem," said Recorder Tami Billiter. "We'll have to make budget revisions in February. I can accommodate these. This is just a drop in the hat."
In regard to funding, Mayor John Hopkins and Recorder Billiter explained that a recent situation involving a high number of overtime hours in the Paden City Police Department (PCPD) was improving. While explaining that the PCPD was working to monitor their hours, Mayor Hopkins said that much of the overtime involved necessary work.
"I don't know how to adjust it when they have to go to court," said Hopkins of their extensive duties. "A lot of it's out of our hands."
Council voted to table discussion on PCPD overtime hours.
Although not on the agenda, Hopkins stated that the city would be looking at an increase of municipal fees. Recorder Billiter stated that an increase would require an ordinance change.
"I know it's not going to be a popular thing to do, but we haven't made one (a municipal fee increase) in a long time, and there's a lot of stuff that goes on in this town that we have no control over," said Hopkins.
Also at the special meeting resident Bill Fox, whose Sept. 3 appointment to the Paden City Development Authority (PCDA) was rescinded at the Oct. 7 meeting, returned to again question the matter. The reason cited for his removal from the development authority was that Councilman Larry Potts, who serves on the PCDA, voted in favor of appointing Fox. According to Mayor Hopkins at the time of Fox's removal, Potts' vote was a conflict of interest.
"As far as my appointment, where does it stand?" asked Fox.
"It was invalidated at a council meeting," said Hopkins.
"Due to what?"
"There were two things," he said. "I talked to the Ethics Commission, and after I talked to them the second time I got a different answer."
Hopkins also stated that Fox's appointment to the PCDA violated a city ordinance.
"If you sit on one board, you can't vote on things that affect if you're on another board," he said.
"I don't think you can name many board members that were not voted on by their present rep sitting on council," said PCDA member Patti Casteel.
When it was asked where Tom Yaron's appointment to the development authority stood, Hopkins said that Yaron was currently serving on it.
"Larry (Potts) voted for him (Yaron) also," said Casteel. "Where's the difference (between him and Fox)?"
"At the time Larry didn't make the motion on Tom (Yaron)," said Hopkins.
"Now you're saying because Larry (Potts) made the motion," said Fox. "It says here in the paper that council had to rescind the action that was taken because 'Larry Potts, a councilman who is also on the PCDA, voted on the matter.' It wasn't that he nominated him."
Fox also said that if something happens in which PCDA board members leave early, the board does not wait until the next year to make an appointment.
Regarding proposed changes to the PCDA ordinance, resident Jack Cox said that he did not want to see any changes that night, and that he wanted any changes taken care of "right". He also stated that he would like to see a roll call vote on any changes council passed.
"I think you need to discuss this, too," he said to council.
"It is an ordinance, so we would have to have two readings," said Hopkins, stating that he would like changes made to two sections of the ordinance: '153.03 Management and Control; Appointment; Terms of Members; Vacancies; and Removal' and '153.04 Qualifications of Board Members.'
That ordinance and its sections can be viewed on walterdrane.com by clicking on Online Codes and then Paden City.
While pointing out that some sections of the ordinance had been changed in the past, which he said came to light during the recent codifying of the city's ordinances, he stated that his proposed changes would return many of those sections to a previous state. He said that he ran the possible changes by City Attorney Carolyn Flannery, and also that he was trying to expand the possibility of participation in the PCDA by having residential qualifications changed.
"It's not drastic changes to the ordinance," he said. "It's just putting it back to where it was and opening it up for people to serve on the board. I'm open to comments and questions."
PCDA President Patti Casteel questioned why Hopkins wanted changes made to the existing ordinance.
"It says in our charter that people who are interested in the board come to us and I present those names to you, and you present it to council," she said.
Hopkins agreed that council made that decision.
There was some confusion between Mayor Hopkins and PCDA as to how many members should be on the development authority. PCDA cited a change in 1996, but according to Hopkins and Billiter that change was never voted on by council.
"The development authority should be the people that run the development authority," said Fox, stating that PCDA should be responsible for what changes are made to it.
"This is what I came up with, and I'm presenting it to council," said Hopkins of his proposed changes.
"Why do you come up with that?" asked Fox. "If there's a problem with PCDA and you think it's there, you should come to them and tell them what that problem is."
"I'm going to tell you right now," he said. "I've asked people to serve on the development authority and they won't because of the people that are in there right now. We had an authority that had financial people on and business people on that knew what they were doing. They were all removed in one stroke."
"Why were they removed?" asked Casteel.
"Ask Bill," said Hopkins.
"I could tell you why they were removed, but that's immaterial," said Fox. "We lost a business with that (past) development authority, we had an industrial park that we weren't doing much of anything with. What prompted this thing was when it came to an appointment of putting me on the development authority."
He cited Hopkins' statement that the Ethics Commission said there was a conflict of interest. Mayor Hopkins said that he may have been wrong on that. Casteel later shared with the Tyler Star News an email from Ethics Commission Staff Attorney Benjamin P. Visnic that stated, "the council member who serves on the PCDA may vote to approve new members of that authority."
"What the Ethics Commission said was that they didn't understand why you were doing that," said Casteel. "I talked to them today."
Hopkins said the issue he was talking with council about was to fix the ordinance.
"I don't understand why someone is elected at a date after they take office," he said. "I don't know any organization that does that. You file between June 15 and June 30 and then you're elected at the first meeting in July to take office the first of July."
"New members come on in July," said PCDA member Cork Bowen. "Why fix something if it's not broken. If there are some issues, we'd be more than happy to open our books."
"If council doesn't think it's broken, that's the end of it," said Hopkins. "I was trying to open a door and we'd have some other people."
Hopkins said that council was ultimately in charge of any decisions to change the ordinance and that he had only made examples for changes to present to council.