Cleburne City Council members decided Tuesday, by a 4-1 vote, to let voters decide whether or not they should be compensated for their service. Voters will weigh in on that and other proposals addressing the city’s charter, as well as two council seat elections, on May 11.
Council members serve without pay save reimbursements for expenses directly related to city business.
Under the proposal, council members would receive $50 per regular and called council meeting, which would include budget and other workshop sessions for an annual amount not to exceed the salary of the lowest paid city employee. The proposal also calls for a $100 monthly stipend for the mayor. Council members would continue to be reimbursed over and above their pay for all eligible city related expenses allowed by state law.
Councilman Dale Sturgeon suggested adding the “regular and called meeting” language into the proposal to bar the possibility of one or more council members meeting with the city manager or other city staff and classifying that as a for-pay meeting.
The salary of the city’s lowest paid position totals $25,366.75 per year, City Manager Rick Holden said.
The idea behind the pay is to protect council members, at least to some degree, from personal liability, which is similar to how the law works for paid city employees.
“This would leave council members not so open to litigation if they are sued in an individual capacity [in connection with their official city related duties],” City Attorney Fritz Quast said.
City staff members surveyed area cities roughly equivalent to Cleburne in size and population who pay their council members. Pay rates in those cities range all over the map, Quast said, from $1 per meeting on up.
Council members said compensation may encourage residents who could not otherwise afford to serve to seek office.
Council members stressed that voters will decide the question of pay, and the rate thereof if approved barring the possibility of future councils being allowed to set their pay rates by city ordinance.
“I signed up to serve whether I’m paid or not and will continue to do so either way,” Sturgeon said. “But I would like to see what the community says on the matter.”
Cain agreed though he added that, under current economic conditions, he doubts voters will approve such a measure. Cleburne voters in recent years rejected proposals calling for sales tax increases to fund street repair and public safety funding and projects. Either way, Cain said he would donate his salary back should voters approve the proposal.
Councilman Bob Kelly voted against placing the proposal on the May ballot.
“I think this is a case of letting the camel’s nose in the tent and before you know it you have the whole camel in the tent,” Kelly said. “I don’t think Cleburne needs to change on this. As a city we’ve done well in the past to have people serve on the council at will without pay. I’d hate to see money be the chief motivating factor behind someone’s decision to serve on the council.”
City leaders last year appointed a committee to review and suggest changes to the city charter, which was approved in 1950 and has been updated infrequently since. Most of the changes proposed include replacing archaic language and redundancies, including removing rules otherwise covered by federal or state laws. Cain said the pay proposal will list as a separate item on the ballot.
Council members Sturgeon and Gayle White’s seats are also up for election on May 11. Both filed for re-election and sit unopposed in their respective races. Candidates have until March 1 to file.
Council members voted to rescind the sign permit moratorium for temporary and portable signs, but left the moratorium in place for all other signs.
Council recently appointed ad hoc committees to review city ordinances, including those relating to signs. Council recently imposed a moratorium on new sign permits until the committee delivers their proposed changes to the affected ordinances.
The partial lift of the moratorium allows for the placement of temporary and portable signs advertising specific events, baseball and soccer sign ups and so forth, Cain said.
Racial profile report
Cleburne Police Chief Robert Severance delivered the department’s annual motor vehicle racial profiling information.
CPD officers conducted 5,238 traffic stops in 2012. Of that number, 4,027 drivers were Caucasian (70 percent); 979 Hispanic (19 percent); 210 African American (4 percent); 11 Asian (less than 1 percent); six Middle Eastern; and five Native American.
The race or ethnicity of the driver was known before the stop in 60 of the incidents, but unknown in 5,178 of the instances, according to the report.
The stops resulted in 189 searches, 38 of which were consensual.
CPD maintains a detailed written policy on racial profiling, which clearly defines acts constituting racial profiling and strictly prohibits officers from engaging in racial profiling, Severance said.
The policy implements steps for individuals to file complaints against officer they believe engaged in racial profiling and provides for public education addressing the complaint process.
The policy further requires that corrective action be taken against any officer found to have engaged in racial profiling and requires CPD to collect information related to vehicle stops in which citations are issued or arrests are made.