bloggin' all things brownsville

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Plain as Day ... Nepotism

Commissioner Charlie Atkinson states in CafeBrownsville.com:

“If you read the charter about nepotism, it means offering payment for services rendered. My brother isn't getting paid. He deserves to put in his community service just like you and everyone else.”

And again, Atkinson states in CaptainBobsRestaurant.Blogspot.com:

“The city charter states that an elected official should refrain from conflicts of interests that result in appointing, hiring, or offering a service to a family member that offers compensation. Chris is just interpreting the sentence the way he wants to and it holds no merit because my brother is not benefitting from being placed on this advisory committee. It doesn't pay. There are no perks, and definitely no monetary compensation.”

The City Charter, Article V Administrative Provisions Section 30 states:

Nepotism.

No person related within the second degree by affinity, or within the third degree by consanguinity, to the mayor or any of the commissioners, shall be appointed by the city commission, nor a person thus related to the city manager shall ever be appointed by him to any office, position, clerkship or service to the city.

Pretty cut-and-dry to me. Commissioner, where does it mention compensation? Why must you consider this a personal attack? The charter's provision on nepotisim couldn't be any clearer. Perhaps your brother would be an asset to the Charter Review Committee. I'm sure he's a smart man. Still, the City Charter, which you are governed by, must be respected and adhered to.

I'm sure if the Mayor appointed a relative, the entire Commission would be all over it. No doubt.

26 Comments:

Blogger Patrick Alcatraz said...

I wondered this: If your critics are right that the second tier of this Atkinson-Davis Mess carries info that Davis himself has taken advantage of his connection with the coach by way of his BISD-related gig, do you not think it important enough to give it some space on your Blog? Hypocrisy is not the monopoly of the elected official. This diseased Davis shitbag appears to be similar to that last cancered colon you allied with, Roman Perez. The Days of the Butterfly can be painfully short...

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if Good Time Charlie has been given community service for his DUI case settlement? We deserve to know the facts about the status of his case. Has it been sweot under the rug?

Juan O'Leary

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mini-WUWT!

The PDF version of the Charter is not working.

Patricia A.

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Blogger BobbyWC said...

I personally do not believe this is black and white. This provision is more vague than clear "appointed" to what? It does not say and this is the problem.

Nepotism historically concerns itself with money - wages - this is not an issue here.

These committees are basically a way for citizens to participate in local government. What you and Chris are saying is, if you are related to a commissioner you cannot partcipate on any of these committees. I am highly doubtful, since no money is involved, any court would uphold such a prohibition. We all have an equal right to participate in our government.

The rule of thumb has always been -if a statute is vague you read it in a way which avoids putting its constitutionality into issue. Under this rule, and based on what you posted, the law appears to be on Atkinson's side.

I was looking for information related to these committees and could not find any.

Where there might be a conflict is, if the Committees' recommendations are binding on the Commission and go directly to the ballot. If the COmmission is free to reject the recommendations then the Committee is nothing more than a group of residents participating in government. Nepotism was never intended to regulate who can and cannot participate in government.

Bobby WC

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But the charter doesn't mention anything about compensation, what gives?

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Blogger Joshua said...

The confusion over nepotism related to compensation may be answered by the Texas Municipal League's legal defintion of nepotism:

Nepotism is the appointment or employment of a close
relative of a city’s "final hiring authority (the city council or city manager, depending on
the form of government)” to a paid position with the city.


However, BWC is right. Ambiguity exists.

The ambiguity lies not with the word "appointment," itself, but its scope. The Charter Committee is unpaid, but by sitting on that Committee, does it constitute an: "office, position, clerkship or service to the city" as the Charter enumerates to be a violation of the nepotism clause?

1) Office: It's not an office appointment such as City Manager.

2) Position: It's not a position, such as Emergency Communications Operator with the BPD.

3) Clerkship: It's not a clerkship, such as Data Clerk with the City Secretary's Office.

4) Service: This is the hairy part. Did the drafters of the City Charter intend for unpaid committee appointments to be considered a "service" or were they concerned about other "services" such as paid contracted services?

Sounds like a question of fact that a judge should answer.

Those are my two cents.

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the charter review committee should recommend clarifying the policy regarding nepotism.

Patricia A.

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Blogger Joshua said...

Correction: The ambiguity is a question of law, not fact.

My bad.

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to the following document, the nepotism provision would not apply to an appointment to an unpaid advisory committee.
2006 Texas Nepotism Laws Made Easy

22. Do the nepotism laws apply to the appointment of a public
official’s close relatives to serve as board or commission members
(e.g., city planning and zoning commission members)?


The nepotism laws prohibit the appointment of a public official’s close relatives to serve
as a board or commission member only if the position is a paid position. The term
“position” is defined to include “an office, clerkship, employment, or duty.”31 Most city
planning and zoning commission members are not paid; therefore, the nepotism
prohibitions would not apply to these appointments. If the local entity paid such
appointees, nepotism statutes would become applicable.

23. Do the nepotism laws apply to the appointment of a public
official’s close relatives to serve as members of purely advisory
city committees?


Generally, the nepotism law would not apply to the appointment of an official’s close
relatives to serve as members of purely advisory committees. The nepotism law governs
the hiring of an individual to a position that is directly or indirectly compensated from
public funds.32 The term “position” is defined to include “an office, clerkship,
employment, or duty.”33 Since an advisory committee is typically not a paid position, the
nepotism laws would not apply. However, if the positions were paid positions, the
nepotism laws would prevent the appointment of officials’ close relatives to purely
advisory committees.34

24. Do the nepotism laws apply to the appointment of close relatives
of an official to unpaid volunteer positions?


The nepotism laws do not apply to the appointment of close relatives of a public official
to unpaid volunteer positions. The nepotism law applies only to paid positions.


I think city charters can have stricter provisions than state law, but I think all we need is more clarity in the language.

Patricia A.

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Blogger BobbyWC said...

Nice correction Joshua - here something may be made of the argument is someone can find a benefit - any benefit - I just do not see the benefit part -

My main point is - this simply is not black and white -

Now this is all separate from the issue of was the appointment a smart appointment - answer no-

this appointment along with Sossi will tend to diminish the credibility of the committee - in my view this is where the discussion should be.

Personally I hope this committee offers health insurance benefits - just because I do not like this City COmmission does not mean I do not see the fairness in offering health insurance benefits -

It might encourage more regular Joes to run for office if they know they will get something of real value

BObby WC

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Blogger Jose Borjon said...

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. You never will learn. It doesn't help when you are related to half the city.

Jose Borjon

Thursday, August 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"this appointment along with Sossi will tend to diminish the credibility of the committee - in my view this is where the discussion should be."

I agree with this statement. Discussion of Commissioner Atkinson's judgement in appointing his brother is a relevant and valid discussion to have. However, I don't feel that nepotism is at play here. I am related to an elected official and I would hate to think that if I were asked to serve my community in a voluntary position by my relative, I would have to think about the conflict of interest. Maybe Commissioner Atkinson's brother is the most qualified individual for the job. Should we discuss whether he's qualified to be on the committee? Absolutely. Should we discuss whether he's doing a good job? Of course. If we determine at that time that he's doing a disservice to the committee, we can criticize Commissioner Atkinson for his selection. But to attack him solely because he appointed his brother doesn't seem like an unbiased action.

I guess I don't understand the uproar. Is there some prestige that goes along with serving on this committee that Commissioner Atkinsons brother may be benefiting from? Is it possible that someone who really wanted an appointment to this committee was left out to make room for Mr. Atkinson?

I guess I need more info.

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Melissa Zamora said...

Really, the uproar wasn't necessary. It was a valid question that warranted some discussion.

However, Commissioner Atkinson took it as a personal attack and his usual diarrhea of the mouth soon followed.

Sorry, no better way to describe it.

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Chris Davis said...

Finally, a REAL debate on the issues of both the actual charter provision and if there's a violation of such. Kudos to BWC, Joshua & the Anon who cited the 2006 Nepotism Law Made Easy FAQ. Your comments and references are very informative and thought-provoking.

I found a note in the NLME FAQ (a better, working link) under #8 where it states:

"However, a city may adopt local prohibitions in its home-rule charter, ethics ordinances, or personnel policies that would prevent hiring a close relative."

In that context, it applied to state nepotism laws being exempted from cities with fewer than 200 persons. But it features the notion that Patricia A. first brought up, that home-rule cities (like Brownsville) may adopt nepotism provisions in their respective charters that are more restrictive than state nepotism laws. A 1993 Dan Morales AG opinion even summarizes as much.

The ever-eloquent Dist. 2 rep, GTC, is relying on state nepotism laws that generally apply only to compensated positions or service. Alternatively, I'm relying on the more restrictive city charter provision that does not exempt an unpaid position or service anywhere in its text.

Is our charter, in that respect, TOO restrictive (read unconstitutional)? I don't know that. Maybe BWC is right that it could be easily defeated in court.

No doubt our charter is vague & ambiguous in MANY areas. Thusly, I'm pleased to see a review committee formed to hopefully iron those spots out. Perhaps, again as Patricia suggested, they can recommend adding the "compensation" part into an amended clause.

But right here and right now, isn't it the law of the land?

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Rorschach said...

To the anonymous person that said that he/she is "related to an elected official" and that he/she doesn't "understand the uproar." Well, since Brownsville is an extremely corrupt city, every time we find out that elected officials place their relatives to work together with them there is bound to be corruption. That is how disgusted many citizens are of our elected officials. You, as a relative of an elected official, am sure that you have seen a lot of corruption. But maybe since it benefits you and your relative then why even mention it. You also mentioned that "maybe Commissioner Atkinson's brother is the most qualified individual for the job." Typical comment from a person that had help acquiring their job from a relative. It is unbelievable how many people in the city are placed in professional positions that require college degrees with only a GED or high school diploma. While those qualified are placed to the side.

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger BobbyWC said...

Chris, you are missing the point - if it is vague - then why is the law of the land your definition and not Sorry Charlie Atkinson's?

I am some how confident the Charter Review Committee will solve this one. What I would like to see is that a majority of people who are appointed to any committee have a background which brings experience and knowledge to the committee. The rest of the appointments can be just community activists who will bring the voice of the community to the table.

Melissa, nice swing -

It does not take much for anyone to start a spat where one does not exist. I am at the point that I am rejecting anony comments which do not address the posted subject or are simply personal attacks without substance.

As to Chris, I have no recollection of any comments concerning Joe Rod. Even if there were BFD- the idea BISD is going to change policy because of a blog is absurd - did they change policy after Strayhorn told them they had too many supervisors? No - After being put under state oversight for not handling special education children properly did they change anything? No - they got sanctioned a second time.

I think this entire Joe Rod thing is made up and Sorry Charlie lost interest in reason and made a mess of it. It seems after 40 years of being told "Sorry Charlie" he finally got the bait.

Now to Sorry Charlie - there is no getting around the fact there is something personal between Atkinson and Davis. What that is I do not know and I do not care.

Does this justify how Sorry Charlie handled it - no - in the same way Sorry Charlie took the bait from Chris, he took it from Voldermort.

Maybe the lesson here is for the bloggers to stay out of the baiting game to create stories.

I am not saying Chris's question was not valid - it certainly was and remains so - but sometime the wrong messanger adds drama to the message whether intended or not.

Just words to think about.

Again Melissa nice swing -

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why my words are being considered biased or aggressive. I am by no means siding with Charlie Atkinson or his brother. I am simply pointing out that the better discussion is whether he is qualified for the position and is doing a good job. Once we have established that it is more relevant to discuss Charlie's judgement (assuming he has not broken the rules) as appropriate or not. What if he is the most valued member on that committee? I don't know if he is but isn't that worth thinking about before we condemn Commissioner Atkinson's judgement as skewed and throw conspiracy theories around?

"You, as a relative of an elected official, am sure that you have seen a lot of corruption. But maybe since it benefits you and your relative then why even mention it."

That is the exact behavior that prevents good people like my relative from remaining in a public service capacity; the assumption that everyone serving is corrupt. My position is derived from watching an individual whom I love give everything of themself for their community only to have everything picked apart by individuals that don't have all the information. My encouragement to learn more about the committee and how Mr. Atkinson functions as a member of it is in response to that position. If he is a horrible committee member, by all means, question Commissioner Atkinson's motives. Is the functionality of the committee not important in this discussion at all?


I appreciate the debate everyone is having and at no time was attempting to shut it down. I was simply expressing my opinion as does everyone else on this blog.

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Chris Davis said...

"Chris, you are missing the point - if it is vague - then why is the law of the land your definition and not Sorry Charlie Atkinson's?"

I'd argue: because in this case (and right now), barring a court order (injunction, T.R.O., etc.), a vague home-rule charter nepotism provision trumps a specific state nepotism law.

But if the sticking point is the descriptor "vague" for the city charter's nepotism clause, perhaps over-reaching in its restriction is a more accurate way to describe it. After all, what's really, intrinsically vague about:

"...any office, position, clerkship or service to the city"?

Oppressive? Unconstitutional? Ripe for judicial restraint and/or review and amendment? Perhaps.

Current law? Certainly. It is what it is. And an appointment of a brother to any position, even an unpaid position, is just as much a violation.

How I read it anyway. Color me a literalist.

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Chris Davis said...

"Once we have established that it is more relevant to discuss Charlie's judgement (assuming he has not broken the rules) as appropriate or not."

My point is, I'm not willing to assume nor jump to the conclusion that the rules have been followed. Because by my layman's reading, they just haven't.

You're right in the sense that, for all we know, Richard Atkinson may be the next John Adams in orator and legal framework craft.

But the ends of his service don't justify the means of his appointment. Rules is rules.

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger BobbyWC said...

Anony, you are correct that it is better to judge Atkinson's brother on qualifications and contributions - and you are correct that good people do not want to serve because of these type accusations.

BUT, right now people in Brownsville are going to believe the worse - right or wrong - so when you appoint a family member eyebrows are going to go up - even if the family member is the most qualified person in town.

At this time - judgment says best not to appoint family members - life is not fair - but smart politicians make smart appointments -

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"right now people in Brownsville are going to believe the worse - right or wrong - so when you appoint a family member eyebrows are going to go up - even if the family member is the most qualified person in town."

Definitely a valid point of view and...

"But the ends of his service don't justify the means of his appointment. Rules is rules."

...very much agree.

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Rorschach said...

"That is the exact behavior that prevents good people like my relative from remaining in a public service capacity. My position is derived from watching an individual whom I love give everything of themself for their community only to have everything picked apart by individuals that don't have all the information." If you are so proud of your relative and that he/she has done good for Brownsville then why don't you give us his/her name? If he/she has done good for Brownsville then there should be no problem on providing us with the name of your relative that is an elected official. By doing so skeptics can voice their opinions on this elected official to see if he/she indeed has done good for Brownsville.

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Kurgan said...

M,

As an interested observer, there is one point to make, well outside of the scope of this debate.

You have an elected representative of a major city in the United States, openly using derogatory slurs against a historically discriminated minority group. He hammers the point continuously by questioning the masculinity of his target.

The only one who has said anything has been BWC.

The nepotisim is not the issue, the silence of the community is.

Kurgan

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Melissa Zamora said...

Kurgan,

You are absolutely correct. I'm embarassed that I didn't make a bigger issue out it and that I apologized for saying he had diarrhea of the mouth.

Melissa

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Blogger BobbyWC said...

Kurgan,

That actually made me cry - I have been around long enough to know the professionals in this town who are gay will not compromise a penny of their own money to speak out on this issue - again their wives might get upset - the younger crowd have no idea what we went through so they could have the openness they have today.

In 1991 I was the first lawyer to advertise in the gay press in Dallas - I also signed up to list my business in a full page ad for National Coming Out Day which was to appear in the Dallas Morning News - The Dallas Morning News refused our money and only later published the ad after threat of litigation. It has been a long hard battle.

While I feel extreme shame for Brownsville at this moment, I feel even more shame for the gay community - an accountant I know at my gym told me to not make waves - I asked him how he could remain silent - his answer was I have a wife and kid to support - I said since you are already cheating on your wife why would I expect you to support your own freedom - he stormed out of the locker room.

The decision by the Herald to not cover this story has me pissed. I am taking it to the Board of Directors for Freedom Communications -

I am considering going Tuesday night - my problem is my health is so shot - they cannot seem to get enough oxygen to my brain and I am a walking zombie most of the time -
I am certain this time I will be arrested for disorderly conduct if I appear - It will not be play acting this time like last time - these Commissioners are pigs -

I am contemplating a lawsuit asking that the Court declare Brownsville hostile to gays and lesbians, based on the City Commissions failure to issue a public rebuke of Atkinson. It is an interesting question, which could prove quite costly to the imagine of the city.

I unfortunately understand that this City COmmission just assume nuke the city and all of its residents before it allows itself to be bound by the law or a moral compass

complacency is complicity and complicity is the same as pulling the switch

I am taking my complaint beyond the Port Director, Michael Freeman - I want to make sure CBP understand that if they do anything to cover-up my demand for an investigation Freeman will find himself along with his bosses in federal court in DC.

Bobby WC

Friday, August 15, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nina. Eres una mujer extraordinaria y me gusta que te enfrentes a los corruptos sin miedo.


Good job!
J. Tovar

Tuesday, August 19, 2008  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home