After vetoing the city manager’s employment contract, Mayor Oscar Leeser said late Wednesday that his action had nothing to do with Tommy Gonzalez’s performance and that it was the right thing to do.
“He does have a current contract and the current contract goes through 2024,” Leeser said during a press conference held hours after filing the veto, adding that the contract should be honored and not extended.
Leeser’s Wednesday morning veto came two days after City Council voted 5 to 3 to extend Gonzalez’s contract another five years, through 2029, and possibly boost his salary up to $450,000. That vote followed a special hours-long meeting conducted mostly in executive session on Monday.
City Council on Monday voted to amend Gonzalez’s contract after he was named a finalist for city manager job in Frisco, Texas, a city in the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex.
After the council’s vote, Gonzalez withdrew his candidacy on Monday afternoon. Frisco officials confirmed to El Paso Matters that he had withdrawn. It was unknown late Wednesday if Gonzalez could ask, or had asked, Frisco to reconsider him.
City Rep. Cassandra Hernandez, who called for the special meeting Monday, said the mayor’s veto could cast doubts upon the city’s ability to keep its word.
“Council would need to reevaluate its commitment to the city manager, as he has kept his word and pulled his name out of the city manager’s search for the city of Frisco,” Hernandez said in a statement. “It also brings up concerns on the implications to any future city manager or city attorney search, and what it says to businesses who are looking for support from the City Council.”
Leeser said he does not know whether the council will vote to overturn the veto, but that they are within their authority to do so.
At least six votes would be required to override Leeser’s veto. Only five city representatives voted on Monday to extend the contract. In order to vote to overturn the veto, the City Council would have to place an item on an upcoming meeting agenda.
City Reps. Alexsandra Annello, Joe Molinar and Claudia Rodriguez voted against the changes to the city manager’s employment contract.
City Reps. Hernandez, Peter Svarzbein, Isabel Salcido, Cissy Lizarraga and Henry Rivera voted in favor.
To overturn the veto, at least one of Annello, Molinar or Rodriguez would have to vote with the remaining majority of council, and that’s assuming the other five representatives do not change their vote.
Asked if he thought vetoing the city manager’s contract amendments would strain the relationship between them, Leeser said, “I hope it wouldn’t.”
Leeser said he vetoed the City Council action because the city manager’s contract was not set to expire until 2024.
“It is 2022 and therefore premature to amend or renew his contract at this time,” Leeser said in his filing for the veto.
He also said in the filing that extending and enhancing any current contract, “at a time when our constituents are facing increased living costs as well as increased property valuations, is neither prudent nor warranted. As a governmental body we should be tightening our belts, not committing to spending unnecessarily or enhancing current contracts.”
The city manager’s current contract runs through June 2024, and automatically renews for two two-year terms unless the council gives the city manager a 120-day notice that it’s not renewing the contract. The council majority on Monday voted to extend his contract through June 2029.
Gonzalez has been the city manager since 2014 when he replaced Joyce Wilson. His base salary was $239,000 when he was first hired. He now earns $404,377.
Gonzalez did not respond to El Paso Matters’ request for comment.