Things got a little heated late Tuesday afternoon during the regular meeting of the City Council.

Mayor Cole Stanley clarified one agenda item listed as Mayor’s State of the City address. Stanley explained he was not going to give an address, what the item was intended to be is the catalyst for a guideline for how a State of the City address should be presented. Director of Engagement & Innovation, Jordan Schupbach, offered a presentation that included how such addresses have been presented in the past. Discussion on what it might look like moving forward was then entered into.

Shortly afterward, Interim City Manager Andrew Freeman approached the podium to begin his presentation concerning the recent organizational changes he implemented that he would rescind days later.

As Freeman began, he barely got “Good afternoon Mayor and City Council” out before councilman Les Simpson (Place 4) took to his microphone. Apologizing for the interruption, he asked, “Can I say something? I’ve been getting lots of questions, the citizens are wanting to know kinda, what’s going on…” Visually, this seemed a little out of place since Freeman appeared to be prepared to make a detailed presentation.

At the center of the exchange between Freeman and the Dais was the question of  “Advise and Consent” as well as the accuracy of Amarillo’s City Charter, adopted by the city in 1913, or at least how both sides interpret it.

Councilman Les Simpson

The charter established what is known as a Council-Manager form of government. It also reads, in part, “The City Manager is the Chief Administrative Officer of the local government.”

It also says, “Employees are appointed by the City Manager, except the Municipal Court Judge, who is appointed by the City Council.”

Over the next hour plus, this seemed to be what the confusion was over. Does the City Manager, interim or not, need to make council aware of all hires, promotions, position changes or the creation of new positions? The council argued the right of “Advise and Consent,” with a couple of them openly saying they felt blindsided by the changes. Freeman explained to the council he and his staff were operating under the same guidelines afforded previous City Managers in organizing the changes.

The back-and-forth also revealed previously unknown details about the Executive Session called following the announced organizational changes, the most glaring, perhaps, that City Attorney Bryan McWilliams was not in attendance.

Place 1 Council Member Josh Craft

During Tuesday’s meeting, McWilliams was asked by Councilman Josh Craft (Place 1) if what Freeman did was legal as per the charter? McWilliams offered a long-worded effort which led to Craft saying, “Yes or no? It’s a simple question.” McWilliams said that Freeman’s efforts to reach out to council members and not getting a reply could be construed as consent. Mayor Stanley, while appearing to explain his position, mused, “It’s like my daughter. Yeah, I gave you the credit card, knew you were buying the shoes, didn’t know you were buying a house.”

By the end of the exchange between Freeman and the council, it was clear to see and hear the frustration. Simpson suggested holding off on the changes until a new city manager is hired. Councilman Don Tipps (Place 2) hinted he was actually good with the changes, noting he didn’t want someone that is not familiar with our city or the staff to come in and try to create an environment that was in place wherever they came from.

Simpson did offer some levity near the end by sharing that the city of Dallas is also looking for a City Manager, adding the mayor there said that a good City Manager needs ego enough to run the city, and the humility to let the Mayor and City Council believe they are doing it.