Martindale mayor passes on duties
By LPR Staff
Seizing on a rule used largely for ceremonial purposes, Martindale mayor Randy Bunker shifted many of his responsibilities to Councilmember Ernest Painter on Tuesday evening.
The mayor, having been caught in the city’s administrative duties since the loss of former City Administrator Tom Forrest,
said that he was unable to continue to perform the administrative functions required of his elected post, and needed assistance from a Mayor Pro Tem.
“I ran as mayor, and I’m still going to be the mayor,” Bunker told a skeptical standing-room-only crowd as he explained his decision. “But this has become a full-time job, and I have to go back to work.”
Bunker noted during his mayorship and subsequent recovery from a back surgery and a series of personal setbacks, he has “maxed out [his] credit cards, and sometimes [he is] tired and it shows.” He said that he spends most of his time attending to the administrative business for the City, and now has to return to his business.
He chose Painter, he said, because the councilmember is frequently in the City’s offices, and he has been deeply involved in monitoring and adjusting the City’s budget. However, to shift the administrative duties to Painter, the council was required to elect Painter as Mayor Pro Tem, a position that was held by Councilmember Michael Grams.
Grams, who also works a full-time job, said he was in support of the decision, and was not interested in taking on the administrative duties of the embattled city. However, the decision was met with resistance from other members of the council.
Both Robert Deviney and Lisa Shell Allan initially chose to abstain from the vote. Allan noted her understanding of the need for Bunker to have help with administration, but was concerned that Painter was chosen without input from the council. Members of the audience reminded Bunker that, over the course of two elections, the people of the City of Martindale chose him, and not Painter, to serve as mayor, and to perform the duties which that office entails.
After a brief recess so City Attorney Mark Taylor could address the legal questions surrounding Allan and Deviney’s abstentions, the Council eventually passed the measure, effectively putting the administration of the City into Painter’s hands, while protecting Painter’s vote at the council table, and Bunker’s position as mayor.
In other news, the Council heard more than an hour of discussion about proposed budget amendments, largely centered around the City’s financial support for the Martindale Community Library.
Because the prior City Council poorly estimated the amount of reimbursement the City would receive from FEMA after last year’s back-to-back flooding events, the council was forced to squeeze nearly $200,000 out of an already overstressed budget.
A portion of that money, to the chagrin of the Library Committee, was taken from the library’s budget.
The main point of contention between councilmembers and the community stemmed from a resolution passed last year in support of the library and its quest for accreditation through the State of Texas library system. The central question was the meaning of “support,” and whether that entails financial support for the project.
During the last council meeting, Bunker asked Painter to meet with library representative Jane Latham and city accountant Ruth Fancher to determine whether other budgeting options were available. Painter, however, said he felt the meeting would not be productive with Fancher involved, and chose instead to meet with Latham alone, a decision that did not sit well with library supporters.
Initially, Bunker suggested tabling the measure until the meeting, as he had requested, could be held. Painter flatly refused, noting Fancher is not “a representative of the City of Martindale.”
After extensive back and forth between the Council and the community regarding the uses, needs and growth of the Library, Grams noted the Library would always “have a home,” and that the City’s financial contributions toward rent and utilities for the facility would continue to be paid. Because of the tight budget, however, he said the City could not afford financial support over and above that measure.
However, he noted, the public is welcome to make donations to the Library, which has a bank account under the City’s control. Those interested in making donations are encouraged to contact the Martindale Community Library.
In the end, the Council voted 3-2 to approve the amended budget, with Allan and Deviney standing against.