At Thursday's Taylor city council meeting, an alleged conflict of interest took center stage of a charter review report.
According to Interim City Manager Jeff Jenkins, Proposition 2 of the charter cleanup items is for conflict of interest language and includes the definition from Chapter 171 of the local government code.
"We need to have that language [of the charter] to be clear and unambiguous," said Herbert Brinkmeyer Jr. during citizens' communications.
According to Brinkmeyer, in August of 2012 there was an agenda item that called for a charter election, but it never made the ballot. One of the propositions included that if a council member has a conflict of interest with the city they would immediately vacate their position.
"That's the problem because that leads to interpretation," Brinkmeyer said. "Either we're going to abide by 171, which is a proper rule or we're going to have another stipulation that requires the council or an outside party to make a ruling."
In 2016, Brinkmeyer, filed a civil lawsuit in Municipal Court alleging that Mayor Pro Tem Christine Lopez violated the provisions of the city’s charter governing conflict of interest. Lopez recused herself during discussions for a mowing contract because her company, Black Stallion Lawn Care Service, placed a bid for the mowing contract.
At that time, Brinkmeyer said the charter was clear that “council members shall not have a conflict of interest with the city,” and the only remedy was to resign from office.
Lopez asked if the language from 2012 was voted on and put into place. City Attorney Ted Hejl said that it was never voted on and does not exist.
"What has been debated on for the past three years was never voted on, was never a part of the charter and was not a part of anything within our charter or ethics that should have been taken into consideration," Lopez asked. "It should have never been an issue."
Lopez said this conflict of interest issue was not valid and should have never been accepted.
"This issue has drug community, the staff, this council and myself through the gutters for no reason," Lopez said. "It was unfairly done, unjustly done for no reason other than something personal."
Hejl said that all the process and procedures were done correctly by Lopez because she disclosed her potential conflict and recused herself from the dias.
Lopez said Mayor Brandt Rydell and councilman Mitch Drummond followed the same procedures regarding conflict of interest, but did not receive the same criticism. Lopez believes she was singled-out.
"It is unfortunate that we have had a handful of people who have created their own confusion within this community, and it was unfair to all of us, not just me," Lopez said. "As a council, I hope going forward that things are done differently so that no one else goes through what this council has gone through . . . unnecessarily."
Councilman Dwayne Ariola said the conflict of interest rule should apply to all council members, and asked that the city attorney research G21 and the involvement of councilman Robert Garcia. Ariola said he is confused about G21's relationship with the city and is unclear if the organization is a non-profit.
Rydell said a discussion about non-profits and the council's involvement will need to be held in the future.
Garcia said some of the statements made during the discussion were not true, and defended his stance on the mowing contract.
"The numbers didn't match up. The numbers were not correct, that's why it was not awarded," he said.
No action was taken beyond accepting the report.