‘Briefing sessions’ to precede Leander City Council meetings starting in July

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The structure of Leander City Council meetings will change beginning in July.

Leander City Council voted 5-1 on June 6 to have briefing sessions take place prior to city council meetings. During these briefing meetings, city staff will answer council members’ questions about items on the subsequent council meeting’s agenda. The meetings will be open to the public and take place an hour before city council meetings.

Council Member Christine Sederquist opposed the action, and Council Member Michelle Stephenson was absent from the meeting.

Leander council members will meet with city staff at 6 p.m. for the briefings prior to scheduled city council meetings which will start at 7 p.m. In the past, city council meetings have begun at 6 p.m.

At this time, these briefing sessions are not intended to be video recorded or live streamed as city council meetings are, but minutes will be kept and made available to the public, according to city spokesperson Mike Neu.

Mayor Troy Hill said he thinks this new process will streamline city council meetings and prevent council members from taking up too much of the city manager’s time during the week. Previously, council members met individually with the city manager to go over items on the agenda prior to meetings, according to city documents.

“The advantage of this over what we have done in the past is the amount of time that it took for the city manager, who is very busy to begin with, to meet with each individual council member is astronomical,” Hill said. “Let’s just steer it in a different direction and make it more streamlined.”

Sederquist said she feels like the additional meeting will be a waste of time. She said typically when she receives an agenda packet the Friday before the following Thursday’s city council meeting, she reaches out to city staff with her questions prior to meetings.

“This doesn’t change anything I’m currently doing,” Sederquist said. “I look at this as I’m just going to come in and waste the first hour of being here.”

Council Member Kathryn Pantalion-Parker said she wants to try the briefing session for now, but the new meeting format does not have to last forever.

“Let’s try this for a while,” she said. “If we no longer need it, we can change it.”

Briefing sessions will take place in the San Gabriel Conference Room in Pat Bryson Municipal Hall, though that could change if council members see a need to accommodate a larger crowd, according to Neu.

City Secretary Dara Crabtree said these pre-meeting sessions are common practice in other cities and function similarly to city council workshops and retreats.

The new meeting setup will begin at the first meeting in July, which is Tuesday, July 9. Leander City Council meetings typically take place the first and third Thursday of each month, but council voted unanimously to push the Thursday, July 4 meeting to July 9, due to the national holiday.

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  1. Concerned Leander Citizen

    This is a bad idea. While it is a good idea to come up with a means to make City Council meetings more productive and efficient, having a separate briefing that is not recorded or transcripts created is an obvious lack of transparency. City Council Members are supposed to be able to discuss matters individually with the City Staff and the City Manager and that practice should continue. It’s been well known for several years that Troy Hill rarely met with Kent Cagle and City Staff while serving on Council. As Mayor, Hill has demonstrated again and again that he is incompetent to run a meeting or be properly prepared because he just doesn’t engage with anyone he doesn’t like or may have differing opinions. Having a sanctioned get together ONE HOUR prior to the Council meeting is not going to make things better by itself. The preparation work by Council and City Staff needs to occur from the Friday prior when the agenda items are released until the Thursday evening City Council Meeting the next week. Troy Hill is trying to limit what the public can see in Open Records Requests by having many requests forwarded to the Texas Attorney General for exclusion and now he wants to make it more difficult for the public to participate in the actual discussions that will lead to voting by Council on issues that affect the public. Leander is now planning on having these sessions one hour prior in a conference room. It would behoove the public to show-up en masse to these sessions and insist that the meetings be held in the main area of Bryson Hall where public attendance and video recording can be accommodated. Troy Hill likes to operate in the shadows at the behest of his financial backers. Sunlight and transparency are things he avoids.

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Marisa Charpentier
Marisa Charpentier joined Community Impact in September 2018. After working as an intern, she became a reporter for the Cedar Park | Leander edition in October 2018. Charpentier graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with degrees in journalism and Plan II Honors.
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