Saturday, May 21, 2022

Flower Mound council adds charter amendments to May ballot

Flower Mound Town Hall

Flower Mound’s Town Council decided to put Town Charter Amendments before voters on the May 4 ballot during its meeting Monday night.

Four previously-denied propositions– one by the 2012 Town Council members and three by voters– will again be considered. Each amendment’s official language is listed below.

Proposition A – Compensation for Council Members

Shall Section 3.04 of the Flower Mound Home Rule Charter be amended to authorize a monthly stipend of $300 for the mayor and a monthly stipend of $200 for each councilmember?

The annual cost will be a total of $15,600, as of June 1, 2021. The only current member still on Town Council then will be Jim Engle; Mayor Steve Dixon has no vote.

Town Attorney Bryn Meredith explained that compensating the mayor and council members is recommended for legal reasons, rather than financial gain.

Currently, if an official and the town is sued in a Tort case, then the officeholder must leave the Council. However, if an officeholder is compensated, then the case is dismissed against the individual.

Texas law protects individual government employees, including Town employees, from tort claims for actions (including property damage, personal injury and death) committed in their scope of employment.

As a general rule, governmental entities themselves, such as the Town, are entitled to sovereign or governmental immunity for damages caused by their actions. The Texas Supreme Court (as per the Franka case) bars suit against  governmental employees in their individual capacity, if they are acting within the scope of their employment.

An employee is defined as: “a person, including an officer or agent, who is in the paid service of the governmental unit.

As currently written, the Town Charter prohibits members of Town Council from being compensated.

PROPOSITION A would remove the prohibition and allow Town Council members to be in the “paid service” of the town. It would make council members immune from personal liability for tort claims arising from their service on the council, giving them the same protections as the town staff.

“There really is legal motivation for providing compensation,” said Meredith.

The 2012 Charter Review Committee (CRC) had recommended this proposition be placed on the election ballot, but that council declined to include the item.

Proposition B – Publication of Ordinances

Shall Section 3.07 of the Flower Mound Home Rule Charter be amended to remove the requirement that all ordinances adopted by the Town be published in the Town’s official newspaper, except those ordinances required to be published by law?

The item failed, with 51.6-percent to 48.4-percent of voters voting against not spending $2,000 each year to publish all town ordinances in the Denton Record Chronicle newspaper.

The mayor and council members all agreed that the way the proposition was/is written (like a double negative) is confusing and people didn’t understand how to vote. The result– $2,000 spent annually.

The Denton Record Chronicle is the only daily newspaper in our area, so that makes it the town’s ‘official’ newspaper,” explained Dixon. “I don’t subscribe to it– it’s not how I get my local news– and I doubt many residents do either.”

Proposition C – Certification and Copies of Budget

Shall Section 9.10 of the Flower Mound Home Rule Charter be deleted in its entirety to remove the requirement that the Town budget be filed with various county and state agencies?

The item failed with a 55-percent of votes against not removing the self-requirement to file the town budget. The Charter itself requires filing the budget; not the county or state agencies.

Council members again pointed to voter misunderstanding of the item, resulting in a $700 unnecessary expense.

Proposition D – Budget Appropriations

Shall Section 9.14 of the Flower Mound Home Rule Charter be amended to allow transfer of funds between departments without the requirement of a budget amendment?

Inexplicably, voters chose to keep in place the “red tape” related to staff time, salary cost, plus council time involved to approve funding transfers between town departments.

This proposition was previously combined with Proposition C as one item, which could explain its previous failure.

The best advice: voter beware. The way the four propositions are written could confuse a voter to actually vote against their own intention.

CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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