Argyle Town Manager Charles West is wearing more hats these days. West, who has been on the job less than a year, recently added the duties of the Town Secretary to his workload.
At the Sept. 24 council meeting, West presented a plan for restructuring town staff, which was approved.
As he reviewed each position, West said he avoided reviewing the performances of each employee and focused only on whether responsibilities could be shifted. He said the decision to eliminate the town secretary position was made from a business and financial standpoint.
“It was nothing personal,” he said “She was an excellent employee.”
“I was told the morning of Sept. 25 at 8:05 a.m. that my job had been eliminated,” said former Town Secretary Codi Delcambre. “I was surprised by all of this. I had just over four-and-a-half years to go before my retirement at 20 years with the town. I haven’t found any jobs open.”
West said that many of the secretary tasks occasionally overlapped his responsibilities, which made it the easiest position to eliminate. Some of the overlapping tasks include attending all meetings, posting meeting times and agendas, recording meeting minutes plus keeping track of receipts, disbursements and contracts made by the governing body. He will also act as the town’s human resource officer, another position Delcambre held.
In a cart-before-the-horse procedure, the amendments to the specific amendments permitting the staff changes were approved by the council during its Oct. 22 meeting.
It also approved spending up to $3,500 to hire a moderator for strategic discussions on town items during a planning retreat about town growth scheduled for mid-November at Town Hall.
West said other departments were reviewed during his restructuring review and were found to be efficient. He added that Argyle will probably reinstate the town secretary position in the future, but now it’s important to make sure town finances are in line.
For more than two years, the leadership for the Town of Argyle has seemed to epitomize the famous Abbott and Costello baseball team comedy routine, “Who’s on First?”
Recently, Town Manager Charles West said he thought the town staff grew too fast by adding positions– within the last 10 years– that could have been combined with positions that already existed. The unannounced and abrupt firing of Town Secretary Codi Delcambre and a clerical staff member by West on Sept. 25 is the latest in a two-year troubled legacy of staffing conflicts.
Prior to the May 2011 election, the Argyle elected leadership was by two-term former mayor Greg Landrum, while the professional staff was led for five years by former Town Manager Lyle Dresher. They guided the town team through the rough years following the 2008 economic recession.
Landrum lost his bid for a third term as mayor and Dresher’s departure came during the unsettled period at town hall following the election of one-term mayor Matt Smith in May 2011.
The initial friction began in December 2011, when Smith openly questioned the roles of the Town Manager and Town Secretary, suggesting to then council members that the two positions could be consolidated. It escalated when Dresher announced his resignation in January 2012—effective on March 26, 2012. He gave no explanation about his decision.
Rod Hogan assumed the duties and title of Interim Town Manager, but was fired on August 28; allegedly for providing only one version of a proposed 2013 town budget, rather than three versions as requested by Smith.
The council vote to fire Hogan was 3-2, with nay votes by then council members Bonny Haynes and Peggy Krueger—who was elected mayor this May.
During the Oct. 23, 2012, council meeting, the council voted 3-2, nay votes again by Haynes and Krueger, to appoint Smith as Interim Town Manager– without pay– until the now-current Town Manager, Charles West would assume his duties.
It was also during that same meeting that the council again voted 3-2 to make more than 20 amendments to the town’s Code of Ordinances, many of which involved removing responsibilities from the Town Manager and placing them with the mayor.
Acting against the prior recommendation of the town attorney, an e-mail from Smith on Nov. 15, 2012, outlined a realignment of town staff job descriptions and responsibilities, as well as chain-of-supervision and physical location.
“When I moved the two girls up to town hall, Carissa [Finney former Permit Clerk for the Town of Argyle] flipped out and just resigned right there on the spot,” said Smith at the time. “This has to do with two disgruntled employees. It’s vindictive and political. If there is any validity to it, let’s all three parties involved take a polygraph test.”
Finney sent an e-mail sent to Smith, members of Town Council and the media, stating that dissatisfaction with Mayor Smith’s management style, changes to her “job function, duties and supervisor without any warning or consultation” and a “hostile work environment” at town hall contributed to her decision.
As reported in the February 2013 edition of The Cross Timbers Gazette, on January 7, 2013, two separate charges of discrimination were filed against the Town of Argyle in the Dallas District U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Although the complaints were directed only at Mayor Matt Smith and cited his e-mail about staff changes, the town was placed in jeopardy because his actions occurred during the time he was acting as Interim Town Manager.
“Her job performance [as Town Secretary] was just under scrutiny and was coming back under scrutiny at the next council meeting, and therefore she files an EEOC complaint and renders herself non-touchable,” said Smith in a January phone interview.
“The allegations cited in the charges occurred exclusively during the period [of time] when he [Smith] was acting as the Interim Town Manager,” said Town Attorney Matthew Boyle in a January phone interview. “Luckily, all parties have consented to agree to go through the EEOC mediation process.”
During its Jan. 22, 2013, meeting, council members moved supervision of the Town Secretary back under the Town Manager position. Following that meeting, West reinstated the responsibilities of the Town Secretary as they were prior to Smith’s changes.
Both lawsuits went through some months of mediation and have since been settled, with confidentiality restrictions.
Krueger weathered the stormy past two years as a council member and said she ran for mayor in May to promote Argyle’s growth. She added that she’s looking forward to the retreat as a step the town needs to take.
“When you have different leadership and council changes every election it’s hard to continue forward,” said Krueger. “We’re lucky that we started early forming a comprehensive plan for Argyle, because who saw the recession coming? We had our plan set, so we were ready when the economy began its recovery.”
She added that although there have been multiple changes in some staff positions, the Argyle Community Development Director, Richard Luedke, has remained a constant presence. Under Luedke’s supervision, Argyle’s Comprehensive Plan addresses items from infrastructure to modern zoning styles.
“Richard’s level of professionalism has been remarkable,” said Krueger. “His guidance in preparing Argyle’s transition from a small rural town into a community ready to take advantage of the urban growth heading north up 35W has been crucial.”
Having a plan in place to counter potential disasters was apparent during the Oct. 22 council meeting when it was reported that Corral City terminated its contract for police services from Argyle resulting in $15,000 budget shortfall.
“We had passed our budget in the September meeting and then learned about Corral [City] dropping its contract,” said Krueger. “Charles told us that we had a slight surplus to help offset that loss.”