Following the resignation of one of its members, the Argyle Town Council selected a replacement last week, but not without controversy.
Place 1 Council member Alex Vukasin resigned effective at the end of last week’s meeting, saying he has become distracted from his job. Vukasin was first elected in May 2018, and his seat expires in May 2020.
After Town Council accepted Vukasin’s resignation during Tuesday night’s meeting, Mayor Don Moser said one person, Bryan Livingston, told him he would be interested in finishing Vukasin’s term. Mayor Pro Tem Cyndi Hermann then nominated Livingston, a motion that was seconded by Councilman Ron Schmidt, who is currently suing in federal court the town of Argyle and two council members, Marla Hawkesworth and Jon Donahue.
Hawkesworth then interjected, asking if no one else was going to be considered. She said she thought Livingston was a good candidate, but she wanted to know why no other candidates were being mentioned.
Schmidt said that the last time council appointed someone to council, “there wasn’t that much dialogue.”
Schmidt is correct that there wasn’t much discussion the last time such an appointment was made, which was in January when Place 4 Councilman Todd Mankin resigned. However, during that meeting Moser asked for — and received — three different nominations before council appointed Hermann.
After Schmidt said he didn’t believe Livingston’s nomination to be out of the ordinary, Moser asked for an action on the nomination. That drew shouted reactions from residents in the gallery. Hawkesworth questioned if this should be rushed. Hermann declined to withdraw her motion. Moser encouraged Vukasin to vote on the action, then asked whether he would abstain.
Then Moser turned his attention to the outspoken residents in attendance, and said that “to have nominations” would force the town to have an expensive and time-consuming election (there was no election in January when council members nominated three people to replace Mankin).
After continued back-and-forth with the audience, Moser said “We have a motion and a second. All in favor?” and looked in the direction of Hermann and Schmidt, who said “Aye.”
This drew shouts and boos from the residents. Moser responded by threatening to clear the chambers.
“I’m sorry you don’t like what’s going on, but this is legal,” Moser said to the residents. He then cleared the room for “executive session.” Before residents were allowed back in the chambers, Moser called the meeting back in session. Hawkesworth asked why the meeting was resuming without first opening the doors, and Schmidt and Moser suggested it was OK because it was on video. The doors were then re-opened.
Hawkesworth said she talked to Livingston during the break. She again said she thought he was a good choice, but his nomination happened quickly and unexpectedly.
“I didn’t even know we were going to vote on anyone tonight,” she said. “Bryan said, ‘I was tapped on the shoulder and told to be here tonight’ … I feel like half the council knew, and the rest of us did not.”
The council then went into executive session, and out of it, all voted to appoint Livingston except for Donahue, who abstained.
Unlike Mankin, who left his council seat as soon as his resignation was accepted, Vukasin voted in favor of Livingston’s appointment and continued to participate in the meeting after his resignation was accepted.
Livingston graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1978 and retired from the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1996. He and his wife, Barbara, have lived in Argyle since 2012. He has not served on any Argyle boards or commissions, but he does have experience as board member and president of a Fort Worth neighborhood association and parochial school, according to Moser.