Lakeway City Council endorses state legislation, clarifies at-will status of city employees

Lakeway City Council updated city code April 26 clarifying all city employees under the city manager at-will employees. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Lakeway City Council updated city code April 26 clarifying all city employees under the city manager at-will employees. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Lakeway City Council updated city code April 26 clarifying all city employees under the city manager at-will employees. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

A bill before the Texas Legislature that would require municipalities to receive approval of its local county commissioners court before acquiring and operating a facility for those experiencing homelessness received endorsement April 26 from the Lakeway City Council.

The endorsement of SB 646 and its companion bill HB 1803 came as part of a resolution unanimously approved by Lakeway city council members that included a slate of other bills currently before state lawmakers.

City staff recommended the council's endorsement of the bills because no one government agency should act unilaterally on the homeless issue, said assistant city manager Joseph Molis.

“We want to ensure all involved parties are able to come to the table and discuss these things,” he said. “Especially in this case, we want to ensure that there is enough infrastructure to address the situation.”

Among the other proposed legislation that received endorsement from council through the adopted resolution are HB 1024 and SB 298 that would permanently allow restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages for off-premise consumption, a service put in place in March 2020 by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and since known as “alcohol to-go.”


Lakeway Mayor Sandy Cox said it was important that restaurants, at the time in 2020 under operating restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had the ability to sell alcohol along with food orders for to-go and home delivery.

“This is one of the key items that saved a lot of our restaurants during the pandemic,” Cox said.

The resolution also outlined bills the council now formally opposes, including a set of eight bills relating to cities that defund municipal police departments, according to the adopted ordinance.

The set of bills are opposed by council not because the city staff and council do not support the police, but because the bills potentially would limit or interfere with the ability to make good government decisions about the police budget, Cox told Community Impact Newspaper after the meeting.

“The City of Lakeway has had a history of supporting our local law enforcement,” Cox said. “We think a lot of these bills are aimed at others...in our city we’ve never defunded the police. My goodness, we just built a brand new police station. We oppose it because it’s an overreach from the state in trying to run local government.”

In other business, after exiting executive session, the city council unanimously adopted an ordinance that updated city code to name the city manager the only city employee eligible to have a contract for employment and that all other city employees serve at-will. The ordinance also removed language from city code that states the chief of police's and municipal judge’s terms of office corresponds to that of the mayor. The code now states that a municipal judge is appointed by the mayor to a two-year term and that the police chief discuss the hiring of police officers with the city manager and not the city council or mayor.

Cox said that the updates to the city code follow what the city has been effectively practicing–that the chief of police reports to the city manager and not the city council.

“The chief of police does not report to the council; so it’s being really clear about unwinding that structure,” Cox said. “Some of these ordinances that we are fixing are old, and they just have not been updated.”

Before the council adjourned to executive session, a public hearing was held on the ordinance updating the city code.

The only speaker, Brad Heilman, told council he is a Lakeway resident and attorney who represents members of law enforcement. He spoke in favor of the police chief having a negotiated employment agreement similar to that of the city manager to retain independence from political pressure.

“They should be able to make the decisions that are best for their department and their employees, and not to have to worry about a city council or a city manager, depending on which way the political winds blow, get upset about a decision the police chief makes, and they get rid of him. And that’s what at-will employment does," Heilman told Community Impact Newspaper.
By Greg Perliski
Greg edits Community Impact Newspaper's Lakeway/Lake Travis and Northwest Austin editions. During the course of his diverse career, he has written for newspapers, online publications and corporate communications teams. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. You can reach him at [email protected]


MOST RECENT

Buzzfest took place Dec. 17-19 and was open and free to the public. (Courtesy CODAworx)
Bee Cave light installation event nominated for international design award

Buzzfest, a light instlattion festival held in December, has been nominated for an international design award. Public voting to select a winner will be open until June 30.

LISD
Leander ISD names Rouse principal as area superintendent replacement

Christine Simpson became Rouse High School's principal in 2016 and will start as an area superintendent this summer.

The Office of Police Oversight released its first comprehensive report detailing its operations though 2019 and 2020 this June. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Office of Police Oversight report finds complaints against Austin police officers went up, but discipline fell in 2020

The new report centers on the office's three main functions, including tracking APD officer discipline, reviewing the city's police policies, and engaging with Austin residents.

Volunteers of Austin Vaccine Angels gathered after becoming fully vaccinated. (Courtesy Jodi Holzband)
Grassroots groups aimed at vaccine outreach look toward the future

For the past five months, grassroots volunteer groups have been working to connect thousands of Central Texans to COVID-19 vaccines.

Rollingwood City Council discussed measures to offset Zilker Park traffic during a June 16 meeting. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Rollingwood to install barrier to reduce Zilker Park traffic through city streets

The city will install barriers at peak times from Friday evening to Monday morning to reduce cut-through traffic.

Leander ISD admin building
Leander ISD board passes $387M budget with 2% raises, new campus staffing

The budget includes 2% midpoint staff raises, campus positions for Tarvin Elementary opening in August, start-up positions for Elementary School No. 29 opening in 2022 and other district expenditures.

Washington Prime Group Inc. owns six area shopping centers, including The Arboretum. (Courtesy The Arboretum)
Owner of Austin-area shopping centers files for bankruptcy; entertainment complex coming to Cedar Park and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Leander ISD is expected to add over 12,000 students in 10 years to its current population of 40,761 students. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Committee suggests $933M bond project list to Leander ISD board

The $933.4 million reccomendation includes elementary school, middle school, high school and districtwide projects.

(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Lakeway council to discuss proposal to build houses, extend Flint Rock Road

Development agreement between city and developer would identify right of way for road extension

Photo of a woman and girl walking the trail with the Austin skyline behind them
Travis County commits to electrify fleet, doubles down on climate goals

Commissioners directed staff this week to develop a plan to fully electrify Travis County's fleet of vehicles, a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions for the county.

The Bloomhouse—an 1,100-square-foot home in the hills of West Austin—was built in the 1970s by University of Texas architecture students for fellow student Dalton Bloom. It was featured in the Austin Weird Homes Tour of 2020. (Brian Perdue/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Weird Homes Tour ends; Z’Tejas to close Arboretum restaurant and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

All employees will receive a 2% increase off their midpoint salary. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lake Travis ISD approves a 2% midpoint raise for staff

Trustees approved salary adjustments for the upcoming school year.