Leander council considers city charter changes for May ballot

leander city hall exterior
Leander City Council discussed city charter amendments Jan. 6. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Leander City Council discussed city charter amendments Jan. 6. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Leander voters may see a number of city charter amendments on their May ballots, including changes to council term limits, city manager abilities and council duties.

The city charter is required to be reviewed every five years, and the city's Charter Review Commission reviewed the charter in late 2021 and unanimously recommended 11 amendment propositions to the Leander City Council for consideration. Commission Chair Annette Sponseller presented a final charter amendment recommendation to the council Jan. 6.

Council members can review, add or subtract from the proposed amendments before calling an election. An ordinance would have to be approved to call a special election for the propositions, City Attorney Paige Saenz said. The deadline to call a May 7 election is Feb. 18. Three City Council seats will also be on the ballot.

Proposition C: Term limits

Mayors and council members would be limited to two three-year terms unless a person has been out of office for at least one full term. Additionally, a person could serve a combination of two terms as mayor and two terms as a council member. This would become effective in the May 2022 election.

Council members requested Jan. 6 for additional data about prior Leander City Council elections and how this compares to other cities.

Proposition D: Resign to run

A mayor or council member seat would become vacant if the incumbent announces as a candidate for another elected office when the unexpired term is more than one year and 30 days left in the term.

Proposition E: City manager

Council members could ask a city manager to resign, and if the city manager declines to resign within 15 days then a hearing could be held.

Proposition F: Department director appointments

The hiring of city department heads would not require the approval of the City Council.

Council members discussed in this item whether this is the city manager’s responsibility or if council members should approve hirings in addition to the city manager. More information about city comparisons was requested.

Proposition G: Police department employee evaluations

Police department employee evaluations would be subject to review by the city manager rather than sending the evaluations to the city manager and council for review, modifications and revisions. A similar change for the Leander Fire Department was approved by voters previously in 2005.

Council members requested to bring the police and fire evaluation charter sections back together to remove the word “modification,” “modify” and “revise” and to replace “evaluation” with “performance review.”

Council Member Becki Ross said a city manager should not have the ability to make a modification to a police or fire department performance review. City Manager Rick Beverlin said the city manager would likely only modify reviews if there was a dispute or in extreme circumstances.

Proposition H: Mayor pro tem appointment

The mayor pro tem would be appointed after the canvass of the general election and any runoff election. Currently, the language is the mayor pro tem would be appointed after the general election.

Proposition I: Planning commission appointments

Each council member would appoint a member to the planning commission without a majority vote of council or a recommendation from the board selection committee. Currently, a nominee is subject to council approval by majority vote.

Proposition J: Selection of auditor

The maximum period that the city may contract with an independent auditor would increase from three years to five years. This proposition was on a previous election and did not pass. This will match other cities’ five-year timeframes.

Proposition K: Mayoral duties

Three duties would be removed from the duties of the mayor: recommendation of appointees for boards and commissions, submission of a recommended budget to council and taking command of the police in a time of a declared emergency.

Council members requested additional information about what state law says about police command in a time of declared emergency.

Proposition L: Public records

Written applications for public records would no longer need to be stamped with a city seal with a copy of the application provided to the applicant.

Proposition M: Charter review commission term

The term of each charter review commission would not have a requirement of six months in length. For reference, the current commission took several weeks to complete its process.

Additional propositions

Council members requested more information about an amendment that allows elected seats to be sworn in regardless of additional runoff elections. Currently, no one can be sworn in until all elections are completed.

Council Member Na'Cole Thompson asked for further information about financial compensation for the City Council and for pay comparisons to other cities.
By Taylor Girtman

Reporter, Cedar Park and Leander

Taylor Girtman became the reporter for the Cedar Park-Leander edition in February 2020. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida.