Westlake City Council held a special session on Monday November 2nd to evaluate its city administrator and city attorney and to discuss differences that have emerged in the competencies of the city’s legal and administrative departments and the Seminole Improvement District overseeing local authorities for drainage problems.
The differences came to a head during a joint meeting between the Seminole Improvement District (SID) and the city in October over a land development permit, where developer Minto requested approval of a non-rainwater retention site that the legal department claimed to be compliant with county regulations that apply before Westlake was founded.
Prosecutor Pam Booker said Westlake has certain responsibilities regarding stormwater testing based on the county code, but SID attorney Robert Diffenderfer disagreed, claiming that the city’s charter and an interlocal agreement between the city and SID considered SID determine responsible party.
The discussion also raised the question of whether City Manager Ken Cassel, who is also a SID administrator, has a conflict of interest in both functions.
Vice Mayor Katrina Long-Robinson said the reviews were long overdue.
“This is the fourth year,” said Robinson, who recommended some form of training for legal and administrative staff to help resolve their differences. “I’m glad we’re here tonight for an actual assessment.”
Alderman John Paul O’Connor said something was needed to improve the relationship between the departments.
“There has to be something, whether it’s an executive boot camp … I think we definitely have to do something about the interdepartmental battles,” said O’Connor. “We have to get along. There has to be something. It absolutely harms the prosperity of this city. “
Councilor Cara Crump said she felt some differences should be clarified before coming to the city council meetings, and Mayor Roger Manning agreed.
“The city attorney is here to work for us, and so is the city manager,” Manning said. “I want both the city administrator and the city attorney to understand my point that nothing can be done if it is not done together.”
Booker said she didn’t want the councilors to believe that she and the city manager weren’t talking.
“There are moments when Ken and I may not agree,” she said. “I have disagreements based on my opinion of the law, and Ken has years of local government experience to deal with it from a different perspective.”
She said the differences are not personal but are thematic, which the council needs to resolve.
“I have a duty to tell you what I understand by the law and Ken has a duty to tell you what is best from a management standpoint, but you are the policy maker and you can set those guidelines,” said Booker said.
Cassel said he did not feel he had a conflict of interest in his position as a SID administrator.
“I would make the same decisions for the city if I had nothing to do with SID because I have made the same decisions in my past careers,” he said.
Booker said the drainage issue will air at the council meeting on Monday, Nov. 9, when engineers and lawyers from both companies, as well as the developer, will be present to give presentations.