Updated 5:43 p.m., Feb. 25. This story was updated at 11:39 a.m. on Feb. 25 to include information from Anthony Snipes. Originally published at 9:48 p.m. on Feb. 24.
In a special meeting Feb. 24, Missouri City City Council voted 4-3 to fire City Manager Anthony Snipes.
The motion to terminate Snipes’ employment was made by Council Member Vashaundra Edwards, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Chris Preston and voted for by Mayor Yolanda Ford and Council Member Cheryl Sterling. Council members Jeffrey Boney, Floyd Emery and Anthony Maroulis voted against the motion.
Snipes has been the city manager of Missouri City for a little more than four years. He was unanimously appointed to the role on Dec. 1, 2015.
Ford alleged previous employment review issues and potential misuse of city funds as the reason to vote to fire Snipes during the Feb. 24 meeting.
Snipes denied any wrongdoing and said Ford’s allegations are unfounded in a phone call with Community Impact Newspaper on Feb. 25. He additionally said the motion and vote to terminate his employment were unrelated to Ford’s allegations and instead because of differences of opinions and management styles.
“People can wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, we're going a different way.’ I don't have a problem with that,” Snipes said on the call.
Missouri City residents packed city hall for the two hours of heated debate about Snipes’ employment, and more than a dozen residents spoke to show support for Snipes during a public comment portion of the meeting. No residents spoke in favor of his termination.
During the meeting, Ford listed several reasons why she thought Snipes should be fired, alleging the following:
- Mismanagement of $2.5 million of restricted utility funds
- A McConnell & Jones audit analysis of water and wastewater that identified issues with the city
- A MUD No. 48 letter with financial issues with the city, which included $62,000 of discrepancies
- A letter from the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office that stated the city needed to review its business division
- Police issues including racial tensions in the department, loss of faith in leadership, police falsifying documents and
alcohol in police officers cars
- Issues with the city’s courts
- Development and redevelopment projects not being completed
- Low staff morale
“I want to remind everyone here that the Ferguson, Missouri, situation didn't happen overnight; those police issues didn't happen overnight,” Ford said during the meeting. “[In] Flint, Michigan, the water issues didn't happen overnight. Detroit and their filing bankruptcy ... didn't happen overnight. Those are examples of what happens to cities when issues are ignored and not addressed by people who are elected into leadership.”
Snipes rebutted the claims saying there are areas of improvement, but that the city has received clean financial audits since he has been employed, and the city has also received financial awards in budgeting and financial reporting in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
As for any financial misuse, Snipes said the city has responded several times to the allegation and has made it clear there is no $2.5 million of missing money.
Snipes also spoke of his accomplishments as city manager including initiating programs to improve employee morale, improving management techniques, developing a business plan that aligned the council’s priorities with city staff’s work raised the city’s fund balance.
“If there's something that's not done, that should be done, we've tried our best to proactively address those for the citizens that we serve,” Snipes said at the meeting. “So with that being the case, Mayor, if the decision is for me to be terminated this evening, it has always been an honor to serve this community.”
One point of contention during Monday’s meeting was Ford’s filing with the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office asking them to look into financial irregularities and policy violations in Missouri City. Emery said he felt blindsided by Ford’s actions because she did not alert the full council before seeking the DA’s opinion.
Emery read from the DA’s response which found the evidence they were presented with was not deemed sufficient to warrant criminal prosecution.
“I think it's unfortunate because you've done your job and you’ve got people who want to see you gone so they can replace you with somebody that won't be tough on items and things that that they may want to do,” Emery said during the meeting. “We know that you've been fair and you've been honest, and you've been a high performer, so thank you for your service.”
Edwards, who voted in favor of Snipes’ termination, said it is her job as a council member to hold staff accountable.
“The day I took [the] oath, I swore faithfully that I would actually perform the duties of a city council member at the best of my ability ... which includes holding staff accountable ... holding them accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. So today's decision for me personally, isn't based on race, gender, personal belief, or popularity, it is based on the facts and facts alone.”
Boney, who voted against Snipes’ termination, said at the meeting that voting to terminate Snipes’ employment prior to the end of the contract will result in the city paying him a lump sum equal to 12 months of aggregate salary, which includes what Snipes’ would have paid into the Texas Municipal Retirement System, the cost of medical and dental insurance and all accrued leave, vacation and benefits.
In a call with Community Impact Newspaper, Boney said it is unclear to him what the interim looks like. A provision in the city charter says that in times where there is no city manager, the mayor will act as chief executive of the city, but a conflicting provision in the charter says no sitting member of council can also actively serve as city manager, according to city attorney E. Joyce Iyamu.
“We're all kind of in limbo right now trying to understand what's next,” Boney said.
At the end of the council meeting, Ford clarified that Snipes’ termination is effective immediately. She also stated that council will work to appoint an interim city manager.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Mayor Pro Tem Chris Preston seconded the motion. A previous version of the story stated that Mayor Yolanda Ford made the second.