At its April 9, 2015 meeting, the City Council discussed the Mayor’s nomination for City Attorney.
At the start of the conversation, Mayor Jim Clement pointed out, for the first time in the meeting, that because Alderman Joel Ortega was absent there might be a tie on a vote and that he would be the tie breaker.
Clement then said
I’m speaking bluntly, there are those who have ill feelings about my feelings for one of the people who wants the position. (pause) And at this time it is my call as to who I nominate first… At this time it will be the present City Attorney, Mr. Art Martinez de Vara. And if there be no discussion on that, or no other requests on that, then…
Alderman David Tremblay interrupted Clement to discuss the nomination. He said there was a conflict of interest with Martinez de Vara being the city’s attorney as well as the Mayor of Von Ormy at the same time.
[I’m] worried about the fact that he is representing his city and representing ours as well.
Members of the audience applauded Tremblay’s comment.
Next, Alderman Micki Ball spoke out against the Mayor’s nomination. Ball said
There are still resolutions that have not been produced, ordinances that are incorrect, one says that Von Ormy has approved our ordinance. There has not been an effort to make this correction. The whole sales tax issue, we’ve lost half a year of tax revenue. The issue with the ballot being changed based on what was presented, that is so questionable to me. Involvement with SOPAC, WPPOA, I hear it all the time; they do not want him. I have to second Mr Tremblay.
Mayor Clement then pointed out that Ball made a second to a motion, but that no one had made a motion to begin with.
Alderman Douglas Tomasini spoke about some of Ball’s complaints saying that he never personally asked Martinez de Vara for help on the sales tax issue in August of 2014. He said “I have to take some personal responsibility for that too.”
Ball argued that Martinez de Vara was taking care of City Clerk responsibilities and therefore was responsible for the sales tax issue, but Tomasini replied “No, I don’t think that’s true. We didn’t ask him for help on how to do that.”
Alderman Tremblay tried to discuss a different candidate, but the Council cut him off. He then made a motion to disqualify Art Martinez de Vara as a candidate. Ball seconded the motion.
Alderman Gay said he didn’t know the City Council was going to approve or disapprove candidates one at a time, but instead wanted to hear multiple nominees so that they could compare them. Gay added
I think it would be a fairer system for the Council to vote on.
My thought on that, to disqualify him as a candidate would indicate to me, why didn’t we do this months ago?
Alderman Ball answered Clement saying that they had hired Martinez de Vara on an interim 60 day contract and that there had been no effort from the City Council to find a new attorney.
Ball then asked Tremblay if he would rescind his motion, which he did. She motioned that the Council not accept the nomination for Martinez de Vara. Tremblay seconded the motion.
Mayor Clement stalled for a full 2 minutes, saying the vote would probably be a tie and stuttered about a few things. He even had Alderman Ball repeat her original motion.
Someone from the audience shouted “He’s not going to show up”, referring to the fact that Art Martinez de Vara was currently absent from the meeting.
Clement eventually asked the Council who was in favor of the motion and only Ball and Tremblay raised their hands.
The audience in the room began groaning and shouting. Many people mentioned remembering Council members come election time.
One man asked Clement why he wanted Martinez de Vara so badly. Clement replied
You cast a dispersion on a man that’s not here without even knowing why
The man asked again why Clement wanted Martinez de Vara so badly. Clement replied
Why don’t you please be quiet and allow me to talk? I don’t think he’s as bad as some people say.
Most of the audience then burst out laughing.
Clement slammed his gavel repeatedly and shouted out
Now I want this place to be in order! I’m sick and tired of it!
The same man asked Clement why he wanted Martinez de Vara, but Clement wouldn’t give an answer.
Alderman Gay made a motion to table the issue., but Alderman Ball said the vote wasn’t over because they had a tie.
A woman from the audience had to explain to the Council that the mayor had only asked who was in favor of Alderman Ball’s motion and not who was against it.
Clement then asked who was in favor again and who was opposed. Aldermen Tremblay and Ball voted in favor of not accepting the nomination. Aldermen Gay and Tomasini, both SOPAC members, voted against it. After pausing a brief moment, Clement said
I abstain from voting. It will be taken up at a future meeting.