City Manager

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Kennard Resigns City Lobbying Position

 Kennard Resigns City Lobbying Job

Former city attorney quitting rather than continue
in a position as the City of Austin’s chief lobbyist

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2015
Posted Tuesday June 30, 2015 4:16pm
Updated Tuesday June 30, 2015 5:10pm (to add Council Member Tovo’s comments)
Updated Tuesday June 30, 2015 5:27pm (to add link to the city manager’s memo)

Marc OttAustin City Manager today announced that former Austin City Attorney Karen Kennard is resigning rather than stay in the job of Intergovernmental Affairs Officer permanently.

“I believe that she would have continued to deliver outstanding service in this function,” Ott stated in a memo to the mayor and city council members. “She has committed to staying with us for a few months to ensure that we can transition these important duties.”

Karen KennardKennard, city attorney since March 2011, was assigned in December to head the city’s lobbying team on an interim basis during the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature, filling a critical gap left by the retirement of the city’s longtime lobbyists John Hrncir and Rod Ellis.

Kennard did not immediately return a message left on her home telephone for a comment.

Ott praised Kennard for her work during the session. “Austin faces critical issues in every session and this one was no exception,” Ott wrote. “I believe that Karen’s expertise and experience ... helped Austin defend against bills that would have limited, or in some cases eliminated, your local control. She was instrumental in our support of the Council adopted agenda. As I knew she would, Karen excelled in a difficult environment.”

Kennard’s stormy tenure

The city attorney reports directly to the city manager and yet is the chief legal counsel to the City Council, a role that requires a delicate dance in avoiding the displeasure of either.

Bill AleshireAttorney Bill Aleshire of Aleshire Law PC, a former Travis County judge, has been a continuing critic of the way the city responds to public information requests since that function was transferred from the Public Information Office to the Law Department in the wake of the Travis County Attorney’s investigation of the city’s disturbing open government violations, exposed by The Austin Bulldog’s investigative report published January 25, 2011. (See “Open Meetings, Closed Minds.”)

Kennard was city attorney at that time and Mayor Lee Leffingwell claimed in news reports that the regularly scheduled round-robin meetings being held in circumvention of the Texas Open Meetings Act had been authorized by the city attorney. (See “Mayor Claims Lawyers Okayed Private Meetings But City Won’t Release Proof.”)

Aleshire recently filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin on behalf of client Brian Rodgers because of the city’s failure to respond to his several requests filed under the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA). (See “City Sued Over Public Records.”)

“With Kennard’s resignation, I expect the quality of legal advice to the City to be improved,” Aleshire said. “For example, I strongly suspect that had Ms. Kennard done a better job as city attorney, (1) the prior Council would not have gotten in trouble for Open Meetings violations, (2) the City’s public information system—housed in Kennard’s law department—would have performed better and avoided lawsuits, (3) financial disclosure laws would have been enforced instead of ignored, and (4) the City Parks staff and purchasing office would not be ignoring the Charter prohibition against giving up parkland to private profiteers without voter approval. 

“I also recall Ms. Kennard giving outrageously wrong legal advice to the City Council telling them, that under the City Charter, the Council could not adopt a policy requiring City employees to put all e-mails about city business on the city’s computer so they were subject to disclosure under the TPIA.”

Kennard’s lobbying praised, interim successor continues

City Manager To Get Raise if Employees Do

City Manager Gets Pay Raise If Employees Do
As will the city clerk and city auditor; the
municipal court clerk gets 5 percent bump
by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2012
Posted Friday August 24, 2012 3:57pm

Marc OttAustin City Manager Marc Ott will get a pay raise after all—if the City Council gives the city’s non-civil service employees a raise when a 2012-2013 budget is adopted next month.

 The Austin Bulldog reported August 16 that the City Council reviewed Ott’s performance in executive session that day and dismissed the item in open session when Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said, “... we look forward to his continued service.”

Resolutions passed at yesterday’s council meeting state that the city manager, city auditor, and city clerk all will get whatever percentage pay raise is granted to the city’s rank-and-file.

The city manager has proposed a 3 percent pay increase for non-civil service employees.

No Raise, No Praise for City Manager Marc Ott

No Raise, No Praise for City Manager Marc Ott

Twice-delayed performance evaluation delivered in closed-door
executive session, despite absence of Council Member Spelman

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2012
Posted Thursday, August 16, 2012 10:25pm

Marc OttThe Austin City Council adjourned today for a closed-door executive session to tackle five posted agenda items—not the least of which was to evaluate the performance of and consider the compensation and benefits for City Manager Marc Ott.

Four hours and 20 minutes later the council reconvened in open session. After quickly disposing of two other agenda items, Mayor Lee Leffingwell called on Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole.

Sheryl ColeCole said, “I just wanted to say that we did in executive session take up Item Number 70, with respect to the compensation and benefits of the city manager, and we look forward to his continued service.”

That was the entire discussion of Marc Ott’s performance evaluation. Cole’s statement lasted a mere 12 seconds.

The Marc Ott-Fort Worth Connection

The Marc Ott-Fort Worth Connection

Ott’s hire as city manager recommended by subordinate
who Ott then hired as Austin assistant city manager
by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2012
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2012 2:37pm
Updated Tuesday, August 14, 2012 3:23pm
Corrected Tuesday August 14, 2012 4:59pm

In late 2007, as Austin City Manager Toby Futrell was getting ready to retire, the city hired Arcus, a consulting firm based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to find suitable candidates for a new city manager.

Marc OttMarc Ott, one of two finalists, was named city manager by a vote of 6-0 January 17, 2008, with one abstention.

The undated 22-page Arcus report, which The Austin Bulldog obtained through an open records request, suggests that Ott, who was formerly an assistant city manager of the City of Fort Worth, and another Fort Worth executive essentially came as a package deal.

City Manager’s Annual Review Postponed

City Manager’s Annual Review Postponed

Mark Ott’s Performance Review Now Set for August 16

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2012
Posted Thursday, August 2, 2012 8:43pm

Marc OttAustin City Manager Marc Ott didn’t get his annual performance review today as scheduled.

Shortly after noon, Mayor Lee Leffingwell read the agenda items to be discussed in a closed-door executive session. The council meeting agenda was posted for the executive session to include Ott’s performance. But Leffingwell announced that Ott’s review was being postponed at the request of Council Member Bill Spelman.

Spelman had arrived in council chambers and took his seat on the dais shortly after 10:30am, about 20 minutes after the meeting started. And Spelman was present preceding the mayor’s announcement of the postponement.