Houston City Hall
Credit: HOUSTON HERALD FILE PHOTO

ANGIE GETTYS

1. Why did you support or not support filing a lawsuit against the mayor of Houston related to health insurance payments? Were any efforts made to avoid litigation?  

I made the hard decision to vote to have the City of Houston mayor pay back his health  insurance premiums.  I would vote the same way, regardless of who held the office.

ANGIE GETTYS

I expressed concerns when the city council started the FY2022 budget process in October and November 2021, questioning why the insurance expenses were no longer shown on the city budget as separate items broken down by departments, and by health, auto, life, workmen’s comp, liability amounts.  I requested and on  Dec. 28, 2021, I received verification of all individuals receiving health insurance coverage paid by the City.  This was put on the next agenda in January 2022 for discussion. The  current mayor was listed on the Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance statement.  

City of Houston Resolution #93 dated Jan. 20, 1997:    AUTHORIZED ELECTED OFFICIALS, RETIRED EMPLOYEES AND PERMANENT PART-TIME EMPLOYEES OF THE CITY OF HOUSTON TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CITY’S GROUP HEALTH/LIFE INSURANCE PLAN  AND SUCH PARTICIPANTS IN SAID GROUP PLAN SHALL REIMBURSE THE CITY 100% FOR THE PREMIUMS.

Prior to this date, they could not participate and be included  on the City’s health insurance plan.  Mayor Willy Walker could be on the City’s health insurance plan and have coverage, but would have to reimburse the City 100% of his premiums.

Numerous attempts were made  by the past council, current council  and a municipal law attorney  to work out an agreement for payment with the mayor.   The mayor refused.  It was voted by the past council and current council to take legal action for repayment of the insurance premiums. 

I believe elected officials are stewards of the taxpayer’s money. I feel we have a moral obligation to pursue this.

2. Do you believe any elected officials or employees have illegally received benefits under LAGERS, the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System? 

No.   This has been discussed at many council meetings.   Officials from LAGERS were asked to attend a council meeting in June, and answered questions regarding this.  

3. Allegations have surfaced that some of the board has not followed the Missouri Sunshine Law that governs meetings and records. Are you aware of potential situations where that occurred? If so, please outline. 

No.

4.     Some residents say they are disillusioned by city government. What needs to happen to restore their trust?  

I think we all need to work  towards  greater accountability,  improving financial management and auditing.   We need to improve communications, all minutes, budgets, reports, utility outages, golf course/pool closures, etc.  need to be in a easy to locate format for young and old.  As a municipality we need to strive for a friendly, inclusive, welcoming atmosphere.  I think we need to involve more residents and businesses in  problem solving, and listen to their concerns. 

5. What qualities do you hope to find in a new city administrator? 

A city manager should be trustworthy, fair, ethical, should promote transparency and have clear communication  skills.  He/She needs to be a visionary for future projects,  be experienced in addressing  budget issues and lastly empower and encourage the workforce.

DON ROMINES

1. Why did you support or not support filing a lawsuit against the mayor of Houston related to health insurance payments? Were any efforts made to avoid litigation? 

The decision to move forward with the Lawsuit against Mayor Walker was made, and voted on, before I was elected to the council in April 2022.  After the election I was appointed Mayor ProTem by the board.  Being newly elected, I thought that the board needed to address the issue one more time before going to court.  A letter was sent to the Mayor on May 6, 2022 requiring payment, according to Resolution 93, of the premiums be paid back to the City of Houston for his health insurance.  No answer was received.  On June 6, 2022, in a closed session, the board voted 5 to 1 (Weakly – no) to proceed, instructing me to sign the Petition for Restitution.   An outside attorney, hired by the previous board, sent a letter to the Mayor telling him that the premiums must be paid.  That letter didn’t receive a reply.  The Mayor has said in meetings he will not pay it back.

DON ROMINES

2. Do you believe any elected officials or employees have illegally received benefits under LAGERS, the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System? 

No.  Lagers was contacted to investigate the questions, and on June 6, 2022, Jeff Kempker and Jason Paulsmeyer attended the city council meeting representing Lagers.  They reported that we were in compliance with their company.  The elected officials and employees have received benefits legally under Lagers Retirement System.

3. Allegations have surfaced that some of the board has not followed the Missouri Sunshine Law that governs meetings and records. Are you aware of potential situations where that occurred? If so, please outline. 

No.

4. Some residents say they are disillusioned by city government. What needs to happen to restore their trust? 

In the 71 days that I have been back on the board, I have to say I am disturbed and a bit disheartened at the hostile environment I find at the city.  In all the 34 years I’ve been around the city as alderman I have never seen aldermen and alderwomen treated the way they currently are, talked to the way they are at meetings, by the Mayor, or employees, or being intimidated to change their votes.  I believe we have a good board that have been elected by their wards to represent them.  We are trying to talk things out, think things through, trying to stay professional and do what we think as a group is best for the citizens of this community.  The climate of politics has become increasingly harsh with people making and spreading false accusations to further their own agendas through social media and gossip.  I urge citizens to filter through the nonsense and get the facts.  Meetings and decisions are reported in the paper and are public record.

5. What qualities do you hope to find in a new city administrator? 

As a board we will look for a city administrator that is willing to work together with all parties to do what is best for the citizens of Houston.  We need to put our focus back on the safety and welfare of citizens, good police and fire protection, road and infrastructure work, jobs and the many day-to-day responsibilities of the job.  I am confident we can get back on track to make Houston the best it can be.

KEVIN STILLEY

1.  Why did you support or not support filing a lawsuit against the mayor of Houston related to health insurance payments? Were any efforts made to avoid litigation? 

I did support the lawsuit for several reasons. 1. The City Resolution 93 (see attached) provides that any elected official may participate in the health insurance plan upon the condition the elected Official “shall reimburse the city 100 percent for the premiums paid to said plan by reason of the participation.” Second, if the Mayor does not reimburse the city then he is in violation of state statue 79.230 which requires the council to set the Mayor’s compensation and we did not authorize the payment of healthcare insurance as extra compensation for the Mayor. Third, we are not allowed to increase our compensation during the term in office. The Mayor will have broken this if payments are not reimbursed. Fourth, the Mayor did not apply for health insurance when first elected but has said that he felt like it was part of his compensation from the city. He only decided to take out the insurance when we changed plans. When asked he said that he knew the city was going to pay for his insurance when he applied, but when asked how he knew, he did not reply. I feel it is our sworn duty as a Council person to pursue action on this matter.

KEVIN STILLEY

Were there efforts made to avoid litigation? Yes, I made a motion to ask the mayor to pay back the money with his remaining term and he denied it. He has stated many times that he was not going to reimburse the city one penny.

2. Do you believe any elected officials or employees have illegally received benefits under LAGERS, the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System? 

I do not believe any elected official or employee has received any Lagers benefits illegally. We requested the officials from Lagers to come and address some allegations. The Assistant Director and the attorney for Lagers both came and answered all the questions and there was no issue with elected officials and employees being in the Lagers system.

3.     Allegations have surfaced that some of the board has not followed the Missouri Sunshine Law that governs meetings and records. Are you aware of potential situations where that occurred? If so, please outline. 

I am aware the Mayor has made some allegations of council members violating the Sunshine law. He has yet to say who, when or where this was taking place at. I myself am unaware of any violation in the Sunshine Law and I feel that all six council members respect and comply with the Sunshine Law.

4.     Some residents say they are disillusioned by city government. What needs to happen to restore their trust?  

 I believe that there is a lot that needs to be done to restore public confidence in city Government. First we need full transparency between the administration and the council. We also need to follow our own resolutions, ordinances and laws. Second, we have to conduct our meetings in a professional manner. Since the healthcare issue was brought to light our meetings have been filled with hostility and rude comments from employees and elected officials. I feel if we cannot conduct a meeting as professional people elected by the people of the City then how can they trust us to do what’s right for the City?

5. What qualities do you hope to find in a new city administrator?  

 I feel like the Administrator should be one with good budgetary skills. I also feel just as important is the ability to communicate with city employees and the public in a respectful manner. We live in a great community and I feel the Administrator is the face of the city So we need someone that engages with the public and business owners to move our city forward.

6. Other thoughts?

I am proud to sit on the City Council. I feel we need to put these problems past us and get on with things that the city needs to be working on. We have a struggling Fiber Utility that should be an asset to every member of Houston with fast speeds and reliable service. We need more housing in Houston and we need to be looking into more ways to make this happen. We need to be looking at the wage we pay some of the employees we want to come to work for the city and retire here but we start them out at a pay that you could work at fast food for. They deserve better.  I sure hope we can fix this. And last I ask you the people of Houston and around don’t let all the noise of what’s going on dampen your love for your city–follow the facts. I also want to invite each one to come to the meeting and be heard if you have a suggestion or a complain. Please come and allow us to address it. Thank you for putting your faith in me. I will always try to do what’s right for this great city we live in!

Sam Kelley

1. Why did you support or not support filing a lawsuit against the mayor of Houston related to health insurance payments? Were any efforts made to avoid litigation?

 I did not support filing the lawsuit against the Mayor. Yes, efforts were made to avoid litigation.

SAM KELLEY

2.      Do you believe any elected officials or employees have illegally received benefits under LAGERS, the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System?

 Yes.

3.     Allegations have surfaced that some of the board has not followed the Missouri Sunshine Law that governs meetings and records. Are you aware of potential situations where that occurred? If so, please outline.

I believe situations have occurred regarding the Mayor’s health insurance and ordinances 105 & 106.

4. Some residents say they are disillusioned by city government. What needs to happen to restore their trust?

Questions regarding the lagers retirement system need to be sent to an outside attorney for clarification. All records and ordinances need to be electronically updated so they can be easily found by anyone.

5.      What qualities do you hope to find in a new city administrator?

Meeting the qualifications of the position. Open minded and able to make the hard decisions, knows city government, able to manage the budget and day to day duties of the city.

6. Other thoughts?

The council needs to get the issues at hand resolved so we can move forward with improving the city.

Sheila Walker

1. Why did you support or not support filing a lawsuit against the mayor of Houston related to health insurance payments? Were any efforts made to avoid litigation?

I supported filing a lawsuit because as an elected alderwoman, I feel it is my obligation to protect our resident’s tax dollars.  According to resolution number 88 passed by the City in 1996, health insurance premiums for all elected or appointed officials are to be paid for in full by the official themselves.  Resolution 93 passed in 1997 further extends health insurance to retiree employees and permanent part time employees to participate in the plan, requiring them to pay 100% of premiums. 

SHEILA WALKER

The Mayor has participated in the health plan since March of 2020 and has not paid any premiums to the health plan.  According to the health plan, the premiums due from the official for this health coverage are $450 per month.  To my knowledge the Mayor is the only elected official to enroll in the health insurance plan currently.  The Mayor has not paid any premiums to this plan.   

There were efforts made to avoid litigation and resolve this issue including an offer for the Mayor to pay back the due premiums with his continuing salary from the City.  The Mayor declined this offer. 

Following the Mayor’s declination of this offer, unsuccessful attempts to clarify and resolve the issue, and attempts to avoid litigation I voted in support of the lawsuit against our Mayor.  

2. Do you believe any elected officials or employees have illegally received benefits under Lagers, the Missouri area government employee’s retirement system?

I do not believe any elected official or city employee has illegally received Lagers, the Missouri local government employee’s retirement system.  At the City Council and Mayor’s request, Lager’s representatives attended a regularly scheduled council meeting in June that was open to the public.  During the meeting Lager’s representatives presented rules and regulations of the Lager’s retirement system.  There was an open discussion with the Lager’s representatives in part to address questions from council members to clarify the issue at hand, as well as provide detail and clarity on the rules and regulations of the plan. 

3. Allegations have surfaced that some of the board has not followed the Missouri Sunshine Law that governs meetings and records.  Are you aware of potential situations where that occurred? If so, please outline.

No, I am not aware of any potential situations or any violations of the Missouri Sunshine Law. 

4.  Some residents say they are disillusioned by city government.  What needs to happen to restore their trust?

I feel to restore our resident’s trust in city government we need to strengthen accountability and increase transparency.  Regularly scheduled council meetings are open to the public, I encourage citizens to attend.  Elected officials and City employees need to show our community we are listening to their concerns, and we care about them.  We are all in this together; Houston is home to all of us.  We need to focus on being leaders who can work together for the good of Houston. 

5.  What qualities do you hope to find in a new city administrator?

First and foremost, I want the administrator to love my hometown of Houston as much as I do.  I want the administrator to be passionate about progress in our city and to approach their responsibilities with integrity and to respect the individuals of our community.  The qualities I hope to find in our city administrator are trustworthiness, approachability, outstanding listening and communication skills, and strong ethical and moral standards.  In addition, the administrator must have strong budgeting and fiscal management skills, an educational background or experience in public administration, experience working with local business support, and successful experience in a community like ours.

6. Other thoughts?

I’m looking forward to the future of Houston and continuing to be an active member in our community.  Houston has several exciting initiatives on the horizon including new youth ball fields, street and infrastructure improvements, attracting new business, and other efforts to attract new residents and improve the community as a whole.  We need to continue our progress while retaining the unique character of Houston that makes us all proud to live and work here. 

 The Houston Herald sent the same questionnaire Friday afternoon to the six members of the Houston City Council. Mayor Willy Walker and City Attorney Brad Eidson were sent a copy, but weren’t required to respond. The deadline to remit the answers was 10 a.m. Monday. Of the six, Michael Weakly did not respond. A reminder was sent.

This story has Unlimited Access. Please support our commitment to public service journalism. Subscribe now.

EARLIER

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply Cancel reply