After nearly an hour of deliberation in executive session during a June 17 meeting meant in part to allow Goodwin to respond to the allegations against him, Bee Cave City Council, minus Goodwin, who was not present at the meeting as a form of protest, went ahead with procedures and voted unanimously to find that Goodwin forfeited his office based on findings that committed several violations of the city charter.
Several minutes after the vote of forfeiture, council voted unanimously to remove Goodwin from office.
City Manager Clint Garza said council will have to call for a special election to fill Goodwin's now-vacant seat, which, at the earliest, could occur in November.
The votes unleashed a wave of public comments from Goodwin's supporters, with some even implying that the council should now be investigated, but Council Member Jon Cobb said he would not be bullied.
Cobb said that he, for one, has made his votes with a clear conscience, and no one should feel badly for how the proceedings went.
A June 9 report commissioned by Bee Cave City Council members concluded that Goodwin, a council member since 2005, violated the city's Home Rule Charter and stated that he did so by "impermissibly giving orders to subordinates, and impermissibly pressuring subordinates of the city manager to communicate information to Goodwin before that information was made known to the city manager."
The report, submitted by Martha Dickie of the law firm Almanza, Blackburn, Dickie & Mitchell, LLP, was obtained by Community Impact Newspaper immediately after Bee Cave City Council's June 9 meeting via City Manager Clint Garza.
Council initiated the investigation into Goodwin on May 18, and following executive session of the June 9 meeting, council members voted to submit Dickie's report to Goodwin and allow for his response June 17.
Citing what he called “an unconstitutional, ridiculous interpretation of the [Bee Cave city] charter,” Bill Aleshire, Goodwin's attorney in this matter, sent a letter to council June 15 stating that neither he nor Goodwin would attend the June 17 meeting.
Aleshire's letter made several arguments against the investigation into Goodwin, including one that has been brought up in recent council meetings regarding whether a council member may be subject to investigation and possible removal for actions committed during a previous term of office.
“Therefore, if Council were to vote for removal under these facts, it would be an unconstitutional, and perhaps ultra vires, act subject to a court injunction to stop,” Aleshire’s letter states. “Such an interpretation of Charter § 3.03(C) is so ridiculous and unreasonable, no person would have been given fair notice by reading that Charter language that it would be applied in such an unprecedented, retroactive fashion, basically barring CM Goodwin from ever holding office in Bee Cave again.”
Dickie's report states she reviewed emails to and from Goodwin between Jan. 1, 2018, and May 2020 as well as the audio recording of Bee Cave's March 28, 2020 City Council meeting, during which Goodwin seemed to state that he violated the charter through an email he sent to Garza on March 21.
That email insisted that council members and staff attend a March 24 City Council meeting in person, which was seen by many who read it as a dangerous request amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
"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."
Dickie also interviewed nine people as part of the investigation, including Mayor Kara King, Council Member Andrea Willott, City Manager Clint Garza and Police Chief Gary Miller.
"[It] is apparent that Goodwin has regularly involved himself in many of the minute details of the administration of the business of the City," the report states.
During public comment of the June 17 meeting, several Bee Cave residents called in to the meeting to speak on behalf of Goodwin and stated their belief that the council member did not deserve to be removed from office.
Bee Cave resident Rick Scadden told council he believed that at least one allegation against Goodwin listed in Dickie's report claiming that he was inappropriately involved in a matter involving the low water crossing in Bee Cave was mischaracterized.
Almost every person who called in to voice their opposition to council's actions was a resident of the Homestead, a neighborhood in Bee Cave south of Hwy. 71, and many supported or helped organized a recent effort to create a petition asking officials not to proceed with Goodwin's ouster.
By June 16, the group had amassed more than 150 signatures.
Those who opposed council's efforts to remove Goodwin frequently argued that the believe the proceedings are a waste of taxpayer's money, that Goodwin has been a great public servant during his 15 years in office and that an official in Bee Cave cannot be removed for infractions alleged during a previous term of office; since Goodwin entered a new term of office in May, they argued, he cannot be removed.
Council Member Cobb said June 15 that while ambiguities pertaining to a council member’s removal from office could be read into the charter—specifically, with regard to actions alleged to have been committed during a previous term of office—the findings in Dickie’s investigation largely refer to actions that came to light after the deadline for another candidate to run against Goodwin had passed but prior to his May 12 swearing-in to a new term. Therefore, Cobb said, the investigation is still valid.
Aleshire said he believed that Goodwin’s April 1 resignation from his position as acting mayor, which came days after allegations against him were brought into the public forum, should have forced any investigations against him to cease.
At one point during the proceedings, Council Member Kevin Hight read a prepared statement asserting that the allegations levied against Goodwin are for the most part in line with the guidelines listed in the city charter.
Council Member Andrew Clark said there is nothing about the situation that is personal and that it is clear to him that Goodwin violated the spirit of Bee Cave's Home Rule Charter, which is modeled for strong city manager leadership.
"I believe the report Ms. Dickie prepared was thorough, measured and clear," Clark said. "From my perspective, while the weight of our decision is great, the parameters are very simple."
Council Member Andrea Willott echoed Clark's statements and said that when Goodwin insisted city staff attend a meeting even though a pandemic was gaining steam, it was inappropriate.
"I feel that our charter was violated, and for me, it was highly offensive," Willott said.
Each council member weighed in, and the most-repeated argument for officials against Goodwin repeated again and again centered on the assertion that Goodwin did not take the city's charter seriously.
Mayor Kara King was no exception and delivered an impassioned speech saying this has been the hardest decision she has ever had to make. She further said that if voters disapprove of council's actions, she hopes Goodwin runs for office again and that he can be re-elected if that is the will of the people.
"It is up to the council to follow the charter and decide that fate," King said. "I certainly hope Bill Goodwin takes this issue to the ballot box instead of dragging the city through a legal battle."