ARGYLE — The missing leadership of an Argyle town manager became more apparent last week when the Town Council struggled to address personnel issues regarding two employees.
The new town manager, Charles West, is not scheduled to start for at least another three weeks, pending contract negotiations. But until then, the town attorney has advised the council to delay any personnel reviews and decisions until West’s arrival.
During the Oct. 23 meeting, Mayor Matt Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Joey Hasty publicly accused Town Finance Director Kim Collins of allegedly spending $3,878 of unbudgeted Keep Argyle Beautiful funds for a March 23 retirement party for a former town manager.
Collins denied the allegations and said council members did not give her a chance to defend herself before publicly accusing her of wrongdoing. She said proper procedure would have been for the town manager to investigate the allegations.
Under Town Attorney Matthew Boyle’s recommendation, the council unanimously agreed to defer any decisions regarding the allegations against Collins to the new town manager.
Even though the council appointed Smith as the interim town manager without pay in a 3-2 vote, Boyle said Collins is an appointee of the town manager and not the council.
“Kim Collins’ actions were absolutely legal and in compliance with all applicable requirements,” Boyle said. “We concur with the town’s auditor that the expenditure was proper. We are hopeful that the Town Council will honor its action of Tuesday night to ask the incoming town manager to examine and make recommended changes to the town’s expenditure controls.”
Collins said the party was a budgeted expense and she said she was given approval by the Keep Argyle Beautiful board. According to town documents, council member Bonny Haynes, who serves on the Keep Argyle Beautiful board, submitted the request for funds.
A complaint letter written by a Keep Argyle Beautiful board member questioned if the funds were misappropriated, launching the allegations. A majority of the council said the issues brought up against Collins were not discussed with them prior to the meeting.
“The normal process would have been for [the council] to have taken the complaint letter to the town manager, who would’ve explained the budgeting process,” Collins said. “It’s wrong to assume I’ve done something wrong.”
Former Town Manager Lyle Dresher retired from his position in March. After Dresher’s departure, the town hired an interim town manager, who was fired in September.
Haynes said the Keep Argyle Beautiful board is not required to keep meeting minutes according to its bylaws, so no record of the party expenditures approval exist.
Haynes said that in light of recent events, the board now keeps minutes. She said she was not sure if or when a meeting took place regarding the decision to approve funds for a retirement party, but her name is on the payment voucher.
“We didn’t have a specific meeting to address it,” Haynes said. “We may’ve had a meeting. I don’t know because we don’t have any minutes, but I know we all agreed to it.”
Donors replenished funds used for the party but only after public tax dollars were used.
Even with the town attorney’s advice, council members still question whether or not proper consent to spend $3,878 was given.
Council member David Wintermute said that without minutes or any record that the Keep Argyle Beautiful board approved the expense, there’s no way to say for sure if something was done inappropriately.
“We are going to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We need to move on.” he said. “So the new town manager will delegate how funds are spent for future parties rather than people saying, ‘We’re getting the funds, can I have a check?’”
Smith said he does not plan on letting go of the issue anytime soon. He said he plans on investigating whether or not the Keep Argyle Beautiful board gave consent.
“In our ordinances, it states funds cannot be used without board approval,” he said. “I don’t believe they took the right steps, and I plan on continuing the investigation.”
A few officials blamed the issues on the absence of a town manager who serves as an administrator and oversees the operations of the town and its employees.
“This is about procedure,” Hasty said. “[Commitments] do not justify this check been written. We’re not a loan company. Cake and punch at Town Hall is appropriate, but $3,700 [$3,878] for a party?”
During the same meeting, Town Secretary Codi Delcambre defended herself against allegations from a few council members who accused her of not following through on posting website photos, maintaining official records and posting minutes on the website.
Delcambre said the council asked her to perform tasks outside of her job requirements and skill set. Delcambre’s attorney Richard Kelsey, who represented her at the meeting, said the council had no evidence of the allegations against the town secretary.
Delcambre did take responsibility for misplacing town minutes and not posting them on the town website. Even though Hasty made a motion to place a disciplinary letter in Delcambre’s file, the council took no action.
The allegations against Collins and Delcambre were news to a majority of the council members, who said that before the meeting, they were unaware of the issues.
Council member Joan Delashaw said some of the town’s issues and the stress facing the town employees are a result of not having a town manager.
“I want us to recognize that our staff has been working without a town manager,” she said. “I think that has added to their burden to performing by having to pick up some of the responsibilities of the town manager.”
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .