Houston City Council members voted June 12 on the issuance of a refunding bond associated with the payment of a long-standing pay dispute between the city of Houston and the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.

Council members voted 14-3 in favor of the issuance with Edward Pollard, Mary Nan Huffman and Tiffany Thomas voting against the item.

What happened

An agenda item to authorize and approve a $650 million settlement agreement between the city and HPFFA, which was first announced to the public in March, appeared before City Council on June 5 for a vote.

The agenda item was delayed for a week after Controller Chris Hollins said he would not certify the agreement until the document was further reviewed.

It was scheduled for another vote June 12 but was not received in time and still lacked certification.

However, council members were able to vote on the issuance of the refunding bonds associated with the payment of the settlement, which City Attorney Arturo Michel said did not need controller approval.

Michel said the controller’s certification is only needed to pass the cost of legal fees associated with the settlement and not the entire $1.5 billion deal that includes the $650 million in backpay.

Another point of view

Pollard and Thomas both advocated for the bond to be placed before voters in November. Pollard presented an amendment that would have sent the settlement to voters to approve.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that our city remains financially stable and nimble throughout various times, and I think the amendment to this item does that,” Thomas said.

The amendment was ultimately ruled “out of order” by the city attorney and was unable to be considered.

Pollard also argued the settlement could have been renegotiated to yield a lower dollar amount.

“I support the firefighters,” he said. “I hope they get all that they deserve. All I asked for was the numbers. That’s it. How did we get to the $650 million if the controller said his maximum was $380 million? If you want me to vote on something of this magnitude, at least give me the numbers."

Houston Mayor John Whitmire said council still needs to approve the final part of the agreement by June 19 to keep the settlement from returning to the courts.

Keep in mind

Houston City Council will not meet June 19 in observance of the federal holiday Juneteenth. Council will hold a consolidated meeting June 18 at 9 a.m. with the public session following at 9:30 a.m.