OVILLA – At the Ovilla City Council meeting late in April council member James Wade handed over three ethics complaints he was filing against both Mayor Bill Vansyckle and Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Leverentz.
The complaints created somewhat of an unusual situation, as the head of the Council Relations/Governance Subcommittee is the mayor, but within 24 hours Vansyckle had responded by passing the complaint against both him and Leverentz to another council member, passing on to the mayor pro-tem the case in which only the mayor was cited and handing himself the complaint about Leverentz.
Wade’s first complaint alleges “Abuse of power by appointing three council members to the CIP (Capital Improvement Program) Board creating a violation of the Texas Open Meeting Act Section 551.001.”
In an email to the Daily Light, Wade said, “The purpose of the complaint was really to make it clear to everyone just exactly how the CIP can be formed and also to clarify the Open Meeting Act as to how many council members can sit on a board.”
Wade said there are three council members on the CIP board and that would constitute a quorum since Ovilla has five council members total.
“If Ovilla had seven council members this may not pose a problem,” Wade wrote. “The mayor has two resources in which to verify the process. He can either consult with the city attorney or ask TML for guidance. At the April 11 council meeting, I asked for the board to be dissolved and to reconstitute it with citizens and not council members, but failed to get my motion through.”
Wade said his complaint against Leverentz is related.
In reply to this complaint, Vansyckle wrote to Wade on April 26, 2011, noting, “According to the Rules of Governance, Section 4.1, Mayor-City Council Relations, Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Leverentz should handle this complaint and act as the official chairperson of the Council Relations/Governance Subcommittee.”
However, due to the fact that Leverentz is a member of the CIP Board along with council members Richard Dormier and Mike Dickey, Vansyckle then assigned the job to Place 4 council member Doug Hunt to serve as the chairman as well as his appointing one additional council member to assist him in an effort to resolve the conflict.
Vansyckle also responded to the complaint via email, writing, “CIP committee is an ad hoc committee appointed by me in front of the full council to assist the council in digesting the information that was provided by public works director and myself.”
Prior to the formation of the committee, Vansyckle said he and the public works director drove every street in Ovilla measuring and marking the streets, noting the damaged areas and drainage concerns, which took about two weeks.
“I set up the CIP committee to take the information and put together a plan to address the streets. Each meeting is posted according to the Open Meetings law,” Vansyckle said. “The committee has no power or authority. They just filter the information given to them and present it to the council. The whole council makes all decisions regarding the roads.”
Wade’s second complaint alleges “abuse of office for political gain” relating to the April 11 City Council meeting when he said the mayor asked for funding for the Brookwood Addition entrance.
“On the surface, repairing the street there may seem like the normal course of action,” Wade wrote the Daily Light. “However, it does not fall in line with the CIP board’s recommendations as to which streets are to be repaired. It was not even close to the top of the list. This, in my humble opinion, was a blatant attempt to gain votes on the upcoming election.”
Wade said he reminded the council that Brookwood isn’t the only housing addition entered from Cockrell Hill Road.
“I even gave the mayor an example of an entry that was in need of repair also, Thorn Tree Road; again, I was dismissed on the point. It is my humble opinion that it is not to the benefit of the community as a whole to willy-nilly pick roads to be repaired, especially if it may be viewed as a political motivation,” Wade said, saying he’s not against having Brookwood repaired, only the method by which it was chosen.
Vansyckle assigned Leverentz to act as the chairman of the Council Relations/Governance Subcommittee on the complaint and to appoint an additional council member to serve and address the conflict.
In an email response to the Daily Light, Vansyckle said, “Prior to bringing to the council a request to improve the entrance to the Brookwood Home Addition, I was approached by Lewis Grinage, a citizen who resides in the Brookwood Addition. He requested a meeting with me at City Hall, stating he had a request from the residents of Brookwood and a plan to re-construct their entrance off Cockrell Hill Road.”
Grinage came to City Hall and brought with him a photo layout and drawings for the entrance to Brookwood, Vansyckle said, noting the plan detailed a new sign and landscaping. Grinage also explained that the funds for the construction of the sign and landscaping would be donated by some of the residents of Brookwood; he asked if the city would consider the road entrance and help remove the old landscape.
“I took his plan to the city council and they approved the plan with the exception of Mr. Wade,” Vansyckle said. “Mr. Grinage was present and spoke to the whole council about the plan.”
A third complaint
Wade’s third complaint was filed against Leverentz and alleges “abuse of power for personal gain.”
“As I have mentioned in the first complaint, it is not wise to have council members on the CIP because, for some, abuse of power will show its ugly head,” Wade wrote in his complaint explanation. “Leverentz lives on Green Meadow. This street was repaired just three years ago. It is not a major or connecting street; in fact, it is a dead end street. I almost fell out of my chair when Leverentz requested that his street be repaired again.”
Wade said there are numerous roads in Ovilla that have not seen any repair in decades. “This is exactly what I was referring to when I mention ‘steering funding’ for personal benefit. It is beyond comprehension that Leverentz would make such an appeal for funding for his own street and not expect anyone to challenge him,” Wade said.
In response, Vansyckle wrote a letter, saying he would handle this complaint himself as the official chairman of the Council Relations/Governance Subcommittee while also appointing one additional council member to assist in a resolution.
In his response letter to Wade, Vansyckle also asked him for a written statement relating to the alleged violation against the mayor pro-tem, including specific details and supporting documents, which the mayor said were left out of the initial complaint.
“I ask that all who reads this please consider the source, Mr. Wade,” Vansyckle wrote the Daily Light.