Before the 4-3 vote that resulted in Snipes’ termination Feb. 24, Ford put forward a list of what she said were issues that occurred while Snipes was city manager, including financial irregularities, among others.
Council Member Jeffrey Boney, who voted against firing Snipes, raised concerns about the action’s financial implications. He said early termination of Snipes’ contract results in the city paying him a lump sum of 12 months of salary and benefits.
“To get rid of a city manager and cost the taxpayers anywhere from $300,000-$500,000—based off what?” Boney said. “What was the true reason? There was nothing justifiable.”
Council approved a 30% raise for Assistant City Manager Bill Atkinson, who was appointed interim city manager March 2. His salary grew from $156,550 to $203,515. That same day, the city’s human resources staff put out a request for proposal for an executive search firm that will find and vet permanent city manager candidates.
HR Director Martin Russell estimated it will cost $16,000-$70,000 to hire a search firm. Firms had until March 23 to submit proposals. Council is working to select a firm.
In January, before the vote to fire Snipes, Ford submitted a complaint to the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office regarding financial irregularities, accounting issues and policy violations at the city. A Jan. 29 DA memo obtained by Community Impact Newspaper• through an open records request said evidence submitted to the DA was not “deemed sufficient to warrant criminal prosecution” but that there was “improper handling of the funds of at least one financial account.”
Assistant District Attorney Mark LaForge said in an email that there is an ongoing investigation with multiple potential suspects and multiple potential criminal offenses. LaForge said the prosecutor handling the complaint is unsure where it will lead and how long it will take to resolve.
The DA memo also recommends the city audit the accounting department. Communications Director Stacie Walker said from 2019 through February 2020, the Missouri City Financial Services Department reviewed internal controls and processes. She also said an annual independent audit by Weaver & Tidwell reviewed the processes suggested by the DA. The auditor presented its report to council March 30, after press time.
Ford said in an email the city manager serves at the discretion of council. Citing legal reasons, Ford and Council Member Vashaundra Edwards, declined to comment further. Council Member Cheryl Sterling said in an email she reviewed relevant information and voted independently. Council Member Chris Preston did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Snipes said he believes he addressed all of the mayor’s concerns in a timely manner during his tenure. While he acknowledged there are always ways for the city to improve, he said he feels he was fired because of differences in personality and management style.
“The majority of council on a 4-3 vote made a decision to go in a new direction,” Snipes said. “At any point, council can wake up in the morning and say, ‘We’re going in a new direction,’ and I have to respect that.”
He added he is trying to remain positive and is proud of the successes he and city staff had during his four-plus years as city manager. Snipes was recognized March 6 by the University of Houston Master of Public Administration program as a Public Official of the Year in the Greater Houston area.
City staff and council are developing an updated candidate profile, which will outline qualities they want the next city manager to have.
Council Member Floyd Emery, who voted against Snipes’ termination, said he hopes the next city manager is “a clone of Snipes.”
“I doubt we’ll find that,” Emery said. “But we have to do the search, and hopefully, we’ll be able to convince someone to come to Missouri City and be our city manager.”