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Citizens in support of Landin as City Manager, city audit not good

November 18, 2020 - 00:00
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The Eagle Lake Police Department, local business owners, city employees and several members of the community were on hand for the Nov. 10 Eagle Lake City Council meeting to show their support of the city naming City Administrator Melissa Landin as City Manager.

Following the Nov. 3 election, the majority of Eagle Lake voters voted to have a City Manager form of government. The city now has 60 days to appoint a City Manager.

Landin joined the city earlier this year, and speakers on Landin’s behalf praised her accomplishments and her competence if named City Manager.

Interim Police Chief Federico Garza said, “We at the police department are able to work with Mrs. Landin and we are grateful for her willingness to work with us. We ask for careful consideration of the city when deciding on a City Manager.” Approximately 12 ELPD officers were at the meeting to show their support of Landin.

Former Alderman and local pastor Dave Curry, business owner Chris Vaughn, outgoing Alderman Anthony Johnson, City Code Enforcement Officer Victor Shimek and residents Sandra Flowers and Javier Salinas all spoke in favor of Landin being appointed City Manager.

Flowers said citizens want “accountability and transparency from city government”, and she believed that Landin would “be a City Manager who will work for all people.”

Election results were scheduled to be canvassed Tuesday, Nov. 17, and newly elected Eagle Lake City Council members John Young and Larry Contreras would take their oaths at that time.

City audit uncovers numerous discrepancies

Landin reviewed the audit findings received Nov. 10 with council. The audit, conducted by Garza/Gonzalez & Associates, a third party CPA firm, was to determine if certain payments to employees for vacation pay during the period of Jan. 1, 2017 through May 31, 2020 were properly approved and paid in compliance with City policies. The firm also assisted the City in determining if accounting records for vacation and sick leave hours accumulated as of May of this year are correct and in compliance with City policies. Landin said the city actually needed to go back as far as 2000, but the city’s limited resources only allowed a scope of 2017 - 2020 to be reviewed. The audit was littered with discrepancies including: no documentation of City Manager approval of excess hours, manual records kept for hours in excess of policy limits, adjustments to hours earned with no documentation of approval from City Mayor or council, undocumented pay increases, adjustment to leave records to credit hours over the limit, and continuation of manual records subsequent to the City Manager memo dated Oct. 2018. These adjustments to the city’s accounting system, likely dating back two decades, total “hundreds of hours” in vacation time accrual and those pay adjustments equal “thousands upon thousands of dollars.”

City council was set to have a special meeting this week to discuss the audit findings in greater detail.

In other business:

Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Judge Stan Warfield asked council to consider reopening the playground areas at the park. The park, along with other city buildings, has been closed due to COVID-19 precautions. Warfield noted playgrounds are “almost self-sanitizing” and outdoors, and local children need something to do in the evenings after school.

Council voted to open the playground area but the restrooms will remain closed for the time being. The Eagle Lake Community Center will also remain closed.

Landin advised council that the city was approved for a $350,000 community block grant to be used for sewer improvements. The city is responsible for a $52,500 match, which was already put aside in the budget last month. There is no date for when work will begin at this time.

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