Letter to Editor:
A segment of the community of Alice would like to recall Mr. Ron Burke. If he is to be recalled, all elected city officials should be recalled. It seems that the majority of the officials have prioritized their private interests over those of the city. One official continues receiving thousands of dollars (directly or indirectly) from the city in spite of persistent concerns about conflicts of interest that have never been independently investigated. Another apparently would like to promote his relative (presumably a cousin) from the position of interim city manager to city manager. A third has apparently been successful in getting his friend, who has no city or management experience, an administrative position that is not included in the budget, was not afforded to qualified individuals, and will ultimately result in the elimination of another employee's position. The other two officials seem to be totally ineffective.
The previous administration did inherit a mess. It was made worse. The unrestrained expenditures and borrowing binges continued. Subsequently, the present elected and appointed officials dithered for about a year before cravenly attempting to address the city's financial crisis that has been developing for about a decade. The officials, particularly those who have been repeatedly elected or whose level of compensation is as high as their level of incompetence, cannot use ignorance as an excuse. Repeatedly, data and analyses, which have not been repudiated, have been publicly and individually presented to them. Ms. Sylvia Hernandez stated it quite well. She called the attempt "a short term band aid to a long term problem" and correctly predicted that good employees will "leave for other jobs that offer better compensation." The exodus has already started.
The present attempt to alleviate the crisis is not feasible. Utilizing the data from this year's proposed budget, the 10% reduction in compensation of selected employees will reduce expenditures by $248,588, at most, for the year ending on the 30th of September. Next year, the reduction will be no more than $807,910. If the selected employees are also furloughed (one day per pay period entailing an additional 10% reduction), the yearly reduction for next year will be $1,615,820 at the very maximum. By then, the city's fund balance will be precariously or nonexistent.
Additionally, the present attempt is shamefully unfair. Again relying on the proposed budget, 80 employees, including the interim city manager, are not affected by the 10% reduction and will not be affected by furloughs. Over the years, the compensation of the unaffected employees has increased by more than 5.09% over those of the affected employees. The employees, who have benefited the least, are the only ones who will bear the burden of the reductions. Effectively, the majority of the employees will have lost 25.09% of their compensation while the unaffected ones will bear no burden whatsoever. It is disgraceful. The citizens of Alice should seriously reconsider collective bargaining.
An alternative, which was made available on the 13th of August of last year, to address the crisis was requested but was totally ignored by elected and appointed officials. It would have first provided for a substantial reduction in administrative costs and a return to manageable budget levels. Although positions would have had to be eliminated eventually, reductions in compensation and the implementation of furloughs would not have been required for the rank and file. All positions would have been scrutinized. No one employee would have been treated differently from another.
There has been an appalling lack of due diligence on financial matters by our elected officials. Moreover, there has been a lack of due diligence regarding the selection of the last four managers. Two were selected even though their records were tarnished. Both had tenures of about one year and were not conscientious about restraining expenditures. The other was hired with little or no regard to the qualifications of other applicants and upon the insistence of an individual who was not an official of the city. He did not have any experience as a manager or in the finances and operations of any city. During his tenure, he was directly involved in the squandering of millions of dollars and in the thousands of dollars in expenditures that were not duly authorized. The last manager, who apparently was selected by three officials without considering the qualifications of others, seems to have spent more time in Abilene than in Alice. The elected officials were totally oblivious to the restrictions on leave that are specified in the personnel policies. One individual was allowed to ignore the restrictions while the rank and file, as usual, had to comply with the restrictions.
There has also been a lack of due diligence in the selection of interim managers. On two occasions, officials selected an interim manager who was also involved in the squandering of millions and in the unauthorized expenditures. Another interim manager had no experience in management or in the finances and operations of the city. The latest interim manager was selected even though his record was also tarnished and he is related to a council member. His grasp of management is glaringly lacking and, as Ms. Hernandez stated, he should value the opinions and suggestions of his employees "while he still has them." Regrettably, much could have been easily obviated in the selection of interim managers, as well as managers, if the officials had maintained the integrity of Section 39 of the City Charter. Thank you for your attention.
Gonzalo Chapa Jr.