In a 4-3 vote Feb. 7, the San Marcos City Council approved a resolution to repeal the city's meet and confer agreement with the San Marcos Police Officers' Association; Mayor Jane Hughson and Council Members Matthew Mendoza and Mark Gleason were the dissenting votes.
"Sometimes we really do have to knock everything down and recreate something," Council Member Alyssa Garza said.
Meet and confer agreements are blanket employment agreements between a municipality and a police or fire department that are effective for three years before both parties must once again meet to negotiate the terms of the next agreement. This is the fifth agreement for the city of San Marcos.
While the community has no input on the negotiations of the agreement, there can still be changes enacted following the adoption of the agreement. Mano Amiga, a local grassroots activist group, started a petition and collected enough signatures, at least 10% of the votes from the city’s previous election, to repeal the agreement.
The petition Mano Amiga circulated stems from a June 2020 car accident that resulted in the death of Kingsbury resident Jennifer Miller. Miller and her life partner Pam Watts were driving in Lockhart when then-San Marcos Police Sergeant and trained DWI officer Ryan Hartman ran a stop sign and hit their car.
Responding Lockhart Police found a half-full 24-ounce beer can in his car though Hartman denied drinking and driving.
More than two years have passed since the fatal crash. Hartman was removed from the force through an arbitration process with the city council in 2022 and was cleared of charges in Miller’s death, according to the Bastrop County District Clerk's office. These are some of the events that prompted Watts and Mano Amiga to propose the 5 Hartman Reforms.
The reforms are meant to increase police oversight and accountability and are as follows:
- End the 180-day rule: repeals the statute of limitations on investigating wrongdoing by officers
- End delay of interviews for misconduct: repeals current conditions where officers are allotted 48 hours to prepare answers in interviews; officers also have the ability to review video footage, photos and other materials prior to giving an official statement
- Public transparency for personnel files: documented misconduct should be available to the community
- End third-party arbitration
- End vacation forfeiture as a substitute to suspension
Reverting back to civil service would affect hiring, promotions, suspensions, protected rights of officers, investigations and disciplinary suspensions and other police department matters, according to agenda documents.
However, the city and the police union now have 120 days to renegotiate a fresh agreement.