Brentwood commissioners argue over ethics following attempted censuring of vice mayor

During its May 24 meeting, the Brentwood City Commissioned discussed censuring procedures. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
During its May 24 meeting, the Brentwood City Commissioned discussed censuring procedures. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)

During its May 24 meeting, the Brentwood City Commissioned discussed censuring procedures. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)

For the second meeting in a row, the Brentwood City Commission debated the attempted censuring of the city’s vice mayor.

During the May 24 meeting, Commissioner Regina Smithson expressed concern about the lack of procedure relating to the May 10 attempted censuring of Vice Mayor Nelson Andrews.

During the commission’s last meeting, Andrews was accused by resident Gerald Witcher of violating city codes by illegally parking 21 vehicles on greenspace along a roadway. Andrews is the owner of Andrews Transportation Group, which operates three car dealerships in the city and has been undergoing renovations over the past year.

“These [city] codes were designed to keep our roadways clean and safe,” Witcher said. “They’re not ambiguous, and Nelson Andrews is fully aware they exist. As a commissioner he ignored them for his own financial profit motive, and other car dealerships have to abide by those regulations just like the rest of the citizens have to abide by those rules and regulations.”

In response to the accusation, Andrews said the cars were parked on the greenspace due to a combination of rain and a construction delay.

“I would like to extend a sincere apology to [City Manager] Kirk [Bednar] and the staff if any of you all felt any sort of undue pressure from me as a commissioner as we did this building process because it’s never been my intent at all to use my role as a volunteer and as a board member and as a city commissioner to influence any of the process [during] building,” Andrews said.

Bednar said he granted Andrews flexibility to park cars temporarily while construction was ongoing.

Witcher said he was also unhappy that the commission voted to appoint Andrews as vice mayor, saying Andrews did not receive enough votes from residents during the 2019 election to warrant receiving the position.

Some commissioners came to Andrews' defense, citing past occurrences when Witcher made similar calls to censure past commissioners as well as Witcher's open disapproval of elected officials.

“In my many years up here, I’ve only had two occasions where someone asked that a commissioner be disciplined, and Gerald, you did it both times,” Commissioner Anne Dunn said. “I don’t know the circumstances of Nelson’s case, but I know Nelson, and I find it hard to believe that he would not comply if he had been asked to do so by city ordinances.”

Despite comments from city staff and commissioners in his defense, Commissioner Mark Gorman made a motion at the end of the meeting to censure Andrews until his business followed city codes and had paid any outstanding fines.

“As figures of authority, we should hold ourselves to a high, high level of accountability,” Gorman said.

The commission voted 3-3, with commissioners Ken Travis, Susannah Macmillan and Gorman voting in favor, Mayor Rhea Little, Dunn and Smithson voting against, and Andrews abstaining. As the vote was tied, the motion did not pass, according to Little.

While the item was not on the agenda for the May 24 meeting, the matter came up again during the commissioners’ reports portion of the meeting. Smithson said the motion to censure was made improperly and without an investigation made by the city’s attorney.

“I found it to be unbelievable that one of the commissioners would make that motion and not know the process,” Smithson said. "It was unnecessary what happened. I'm embarrassed, and it could have been worked out in such a different manner."

City Attorney Kristen Corn said the motion did not follow proper city procedures to censure a commissioner regardless, as an investigation by city staff is required before a vote can take place.

“Ethics investigations can be initiated by a complaint, or by me acting on my own accord if I have information or reasonable suspicion of a violation,” Corn said. “Complaints will only be acted upon if they in writing, signed by the person making the complaint and submitted to me if it’s a complaint against an employee other than the city manager or myself.”

Other items of note

During the May 24 meeting, the Brentwood City Commission also took the following actions:

  • The commission deferred an engineering agreement for a roundabout proposed for the intersection of Holly Tree Gap and Murray Lane. The intersection is currently a three-way stop, according to city staff. Commissioner Dunn asked the vote on engineering approval be deferred to June 14 to give staff more time to compile data about vehicle accidents at existing roundabouts, which was approved unanimously.

  • The commission also approved, on first reading, an ordinance to establish a tax rate for the 2021-22 fiscal year. According to City Manager Kirk Bednar, the tax rate is expected to be reduced from $0.36 per $100 home valuation to $0.29 per $100 home valuation. The rate was lowered as the result of Williamson County’s tax reappraisal, which increased the property value.

By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.


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