Due to a string of resignations brought about by reactions of local leadership to the COVID-19 crisis that resulted in heated exchanges and allegations of misconduct, both in public and via email, the makeup of the Bee Cave City Council could take shape in a variety of ways in May.
During a special called meeting March 28, as acting mayor, Bill Goodwin resigned from his post as mayor pro tem of Bee Cave, which effectively returned him to his previous role as a council member. He then resigned from council April 1.
In a related move, Council Member Jon Cobb also resigned from council during the March 28 meeting.
That Saturday night, a vitriolic and public exchange between Goodwin and Cobb over disagreements stemming from Goodwin’s response to the COVID-19 crisis up to that point shed light not only on the rift between the two men, but also a conflicted council in general.
Cobb had previously stated during a March 24 council meeting he was let down by Goodwin for several reasons, including what he said was Goodwin's refusal to attend a special meeting centered on the coronavirus.
The agenda for the March 28 meeting appeared focused on Goodwin’s removal due to perceived missteps and lackluster response to the pandemic.
But as that meeting unfolded, Council Members Andrea Willott and Kara King delivered pleas for calm and rational actions. They peppered in statements that suggested cooler heads could prevail and no one needed to step down.
"The presence of an invisible virus has many people on edge," Willott said. "Everyone makes mistakes in word choices and judgement. Everyone."
Even Cobb, who has publicly been the most outspoken against Goodwin’s actions, seemed like he was willing to move past Goodwin’s actions during a short speech he relayed over the COVID-19-forced telephone meeting, for which more than 80 Bee Cave residents had called in to listen.
But that optimism was short lived, as minutes later Cobb called for the removal of Goodwin not only from his post as mayor, but also his seats on the Bee Cave Economic Development Board and the West Travis County Public Utility Agency.
Even though the vote for removal of the acting mayor failed in a 2-2 tie with Council Members Cobb and Andrew Clark voting in favor, Goodwin resigned anyway, saying he had lost the faith and trust of two of his council members.
The subsequent votes for Goodwin’s removal from the WTCPUA and EDB also failed that night, but he resigned from both positions two days later March 30.
"It was obvious to me that City Council had lost their faith in my judgement," Goodwin said. "So, I think I should afford them the opportunity to name their own appointees [to the EDB and WTCPUA].”
Immediately after all three votes for removal failed, Cobb also resigned from City Council.
"If I stayed on the council, it would be extremely disruptive to everyone else," he said just before leaving the phone call.
Cobb has since had a change of heart, and because he did not submit his resignation in writing, council could not accept it, per guidelines from the Bee Cave city charter. Therefore, Cobb remains a council member and has been present at subsequent meetings, including the most recent April 14 meeting.
Goodwin submitted his resignation from City Council in writing April 1, and it was accepted during a special council meeting April 7. At the same meeting, council appointed Kevin Hight, a former board member of the Bee Cave Planning and Zoning Commision, to replace Goodwin until May.
On March 28, prior to the special meeting, Bee Cave City Council consisted of Goodwin as acting mayor and Cobb, Willott, King and Clark.
By April 7, without any elections having taken place, council consisted of King as acting mayor and Cobb, Clark, Willott and Hight.
However, council’s roster could manifest in a few different ways by May, largely depending on what Goodwin decides to do.
A couple of different scenarios
King decided to run for mayor in the wake of former Mayor Monty Parker’s resignation at the end of 2019.
Parker resigned Dec. 16 for what he cited as a professional opportunity closer to San Antonio, and Goodwin took over as acting mayor immediately after that. As the run up to a potential May election took shape, there ended up being no challengers for the 2020 terms, and the city canceled the election Feb. 25.
As it stands now, King, Cobb and Goodwin are still slated to take their oaths of office during council’s first meeting May 12, and then officials may appoint someone to take King's council spot for what would have been the remainder of her term ending May 2021.
Cobb has already stated he will keep his council seat and serve another two-year term starting in May.
“I received a lot of correspondence from people ... that were happy I am staying,” Cobb said April 15. “Things are pretty turned upside down because of the COVID-19 stuff. I really feel like I need to stick around to see if there is anything I can do to help.”
Since Cobb said he will stay in office, the makeup of the Bee Cave City Council beginning in May will depend on whether Goodwin keeps his seat.
On April 15, Goodwin said he was still undecided, leaving the possibility for two scenarios to play out.
City Manager Clint Garza said if Goodwin decides not to keep his seat, a special election would need to be called to fill his position, and council would need to appoint a successor for King’s council seat.
But the special election would not take place until Nov. 3 due to a proclamation from Gov. Greg Abbott allowing the suspension of May elections due to the COVID-19 crisis, Garza said.
Should Goodwin decide to retain his seat in May, all that needs to happen is the appointment of King's successor, who can be named by council at any time after the seat becomes vacant in May, according to Garza.
Another possible outcome
During the March 28 meeting, Goodwin said he acknowledged he made some missteps regarding the handling of several facets of official business amid the COVID-19 crisis, including violating the Bee Cave city charter.
That statement was in part in reference to an email obtained by Community Impact Newspaper that was sent by Goodwin to Garza on March 21 that insisted council members and staff attend the March 24 City Council meeting in person.
"I would like all members of staff that have business on the agenda to be in physical attendance, and urge you to tell them that I expect that of them," Goodwin's email stated. "Feel free to remind them that they are under your supervision and that I have no authority to require anything of them, that I am cognizant of that and nonetheless want them there."
On March 22, Cobb sent an email to city staff responding to Goodwin’s email.
"If any one of you feel scared of repercussions, please know that I will go to the floor fighting for anyone who does the right thing, and I believe the rest of the council thinks the same way," Cobb's March 22 email stated.
Goodwin’s admission of mishandling the situation has raised questions during subsequent public meetings, including from Cobb, about whether Goodwin is eligible to keep his council seat.
Chapter 4, Section 2 of the Bee Cave Home Rule Charter states, “No Member of the Council, including the Mayor, shall give orders to any subordinate of the City Manager, either publicly or privately.”
Furthermore, in Chapter 3, Section 3B, the charter states a council member or the mayor forfeits his or her office if at any time he or she “violates any express prohibition of this section or any other provision of this Charter.”
Finally, Chapter 3, Section 3D of the charter states if it is alleged a council member or the mayor has forfeited his or her office, “the City Council may conduct an investigation to determine whether forfeiture has occurred.”
King was not available for comment as of press deadline, but Cobb said April 16 that if Goodwin decides to retain his council seat in May, he intends to call for City Council to conduct an investigation into Goodwin’s actions.
“Goodwin admitted that, A, he violated the charter and B, he violated the spirit of the charter,” Cobb said.