The council in its chambers. At left, standing, is Mayor Willy Walker. Credit: FILE PHOTO

The Houston City Council will seek an independent counsel to review how Mayor Willy Walker received insurance benefits paid by taxpayers despite a city resolution that forbids it.

The unanimous decision came in a closed session last Monday. Information about the meeting was released Friday.

The issue first surfaced in a council meeting last month. Since that time, the council has met twice in closed session to discuss it.

Mayor Pro-Tem Ross Richardson presided over the meeting as the council and its attorney Brad Eidson allowed Walker to look on. In a 4-2 vote, the council voted to require Walker to reimburse the city for his health insurance coverage. According to the city’s records, the total is $10,350 as of last week. Voting for repayment were Alderpersons Kevin Stilley, Sheila Walker, Richardson and Angie Gettys. Aldermen Sam Kelley and Michael Weakly opposed the motion.

Those in the room said Walker was adamant that he had done nothing wrong, wouldn’t repay the premiums and didn’t intentionally violate a 1979 city passed resolution that requires elected officials, retired employees and part-time workers to pay for their insurance if they join the city’s group health insurance policy.

In a second vote, Kelley and Weakly introduced a motion to seek special counsel to review the matter. It passed unanimously. According to city records, the mayor was added to the city’s group policy in March 2020. He was elected in 2019 and re-elected to a second term last year.

The council was told by City Administrator Scott Avery that the city would no longer remit payments for Walker’s coverage. In the closed session, Walker told colleagues that he had tried to cancel his coverage after it became an issue but had not been able to remove himself until an enrollment period opens.

The mayor did not respond to inquiries for comment.

Editor’s note: The first paragraph was changed after publication to better reflect the council’s action in 1979 as a resolution. Here are the minutes.

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