ARGYLE — The Argyle Town Council named a town manager Tuesday and appointed Mayor Matt Smith to fulfill the town manager duties until that man starts next month.
The council named Charles West as town manager in a 3-2 vote.
Smith said after negotiating a contract with West, the council is expected to finalize the hire Nov. 13.
Smith said West will start in about 30 days.
Despite pleas from council member Joey Hasty for unanimity, Bonny Haynes and Peggy Krueger voted against the appointment, saying a second applicant might have been a better fit for the town.
During an executive session Tuesday, the council interviewed two applicants who were picked by a search firm as the most qualified for the position.
Haynes said the second applicant, whose name was not released, had more experience as a town manager.
“I understand we want a unanimous decision for the benefit of the candidate, but I’m going to support whoever we bring in,” Haynes said. “Just because I don’t vote for him doesn’t mean I won’t support him.”
Hasty made three motions for Haynes and Krueger to reconsider their votes in an attempt to produce a unanimous vote.
“[West] doesn’t have the backbone to handle this council,” Krueger said, drawing laughter from the audience. “I feel so strongly about getting someone who has more experience as a town manager.”
Hasty said the council should be united in its decision to hire an official who will help make the town more efficient.
“You have to get experience somewhere, and he is qualified,” he said.
Hasty said West is more than qualified, adding that the new manager will help get the town in order and that the town has lacked leadership since losing its town manager in the spring.
During an Aug. 28 meeting, council members voted 3-2 to end the contract between the last interim town manager, Rod Hogan, before finding a replacement. Council members who voted for the termination said the interim town manager did not live up to the council’s expectations.
Smith said Hogan’s termination was a sum of many issues he felt illustrated unsatisfactory leadership.
Hogan was hired to replace former Town Manager Lyle Dresher, who resigned March 26 after five years on the job.
After Hogan’s termination, Smith said he felt confident in town employees’ ability to manage their respective departments.
However, since Dresher’s retirement and Hogan’s termination, council members have noted that town employees have been tasked with heavier loads.
So, the council voted 3-2 to appoint Smith as interim town manager without pay. Council members Hasty, Joan Delashaw and David Wintermute voted for Smith’s appointment, while Haynes and Krueger voted against it.
“The notion of Matt Smith being appointed as interim town manager was never — not once — proposed, but it was proposed very quickly in executive session with little discussion,” Haynes said.
The council moved to open session to appoint Smith at about 5:20 p.m., despite the open session being scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Haynes described the appointment as a fox watching the hen house.
Smith said the appointment was necessary because in the absence of a town manager he has been tasked with the responsibilities anyway.
Town attorney Matthew Boyle said the appointment was appropriate because the mayor is the executive officer of the town and because he received a majority vote from the council.
Boyle said the action did not give Smith the authority to act independently of the Town Council.
A spokesman for the Texas attorney general’s office cited several points of law, including one that forbids a town from appointing a council member to a position like town manager, but he would not say whether he believed the town’s action Tuesday violated that law.
It was not clear whether that law applied to Smith since he will be unpaid.
In other business, the council voted 3-2 to make more than 20 amendments to town ordinances. Many of the changes involved removing responsibilities from the town manager and placing them with the mayor.
Hasty said the changes will create checks and balances for the town. He said the changes will take some control from the town manager.
“We don’t need our town manager calling all of the shots of the town,” he said.
Changes include making the mayor responsible for preparing agendas, giving the mayor authorization to execute construction contractor agreements, and designating the mayor as the official responsible for implementation and enforcement of drought contingency plans.
Changes made to the ordinances were not available to the public, leaving some wondering what changes were being made.
“It may be legally within the bounds of the government code to ramrod 23 ordinance amendments through a consent agenda without discussion, but it wasn’t very transparent,” Haynes said. “I simply couldn’t understand any of it the way it was written.”
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org .