Meier’s Latest Efforts at “Agenda By Ambush”
Need To Be Forcefully Rejected
By: Susan M. Halpern
(Addison councilmember 1992 – 99)
Todd Meier is again trying to push his misguided agenda by ambushing the Council. The Agenda published last week included items, referencing Decorum, Ethics and Transparency. These Agenda items were included at Meier’s request. The Agenda contained no proposals and no detail regarding what the discussion would even be about. Start here: If these items were legitimate, the public and the other members of Council would have been provided with specifics. The absence of specifics tells us that Meier is once again up to no good. This is, after all, an individual who spends his days plotting and scheming to cause harm to his political foes, most often by misrepresenting and mischaracterizing issues and then bullying those who dare to correct his many misstatements. All to the significant harm of Addison, about which Meier has no concern.
So, expect Meier to try to use these three items to mischaracterize events as a springboard for attacking and defaming those with whom he disagrees. As well, expect Meier to try to needlessly lengthen the meeting and keep the staff and other councilmembers at Town Hall into the wee hours of the night. In other words, my prediction is that Meier will use these items to try to hijack yet another meeting in his year-long effort to disrupt the business of a Council he no longer OWNS, precisely because he no longer OWNS it. My hope is that the other councilmembers reject these efforts and send Meier a message that his favored tactic of “Agenda by Ambush” will no longer be tolerated.
This Agenda comes on the heels of one of the most shameful, inappropriate and disgraceful meetings many of us have ever witnessed. If you haven’t watched the meeting, you owe it to yourself to do so. By way of background, Meier opposed the AMLI development that was considered on February 14, 2017, but he sensed that his position was in the minority. So, Meier did what Meier does when the Council declines to bend to his imperialistic will. Meier obstructed. Meier filibustered. Meier tried to table the item. Meier claimed that further study was needed. Meier invented obstacles not because it aided the deliberative process or because doing so was in Addison’s best interests, but to derail the deliberative process because it was in Meier’s interest to delay a vote. Meier interrogated AMLI’s representatives using excruciatingly inflammatory, argumentative and accusatory questions, interrupting their efforts to provide explanations. Meier’s conduct was unprofessional and entirely inappropriate. In the end, Meier kept everyone at the meeting until almost 1:00 a.m. It was an inexcusable spectacle, another blight in a long series of blights on Addison’s reputation that Meier has caused.
And now Meier wants to talk about Decorum, Ethics and Transparency? The truth is that Meier is the least qualified individual in our Town to opine about any of these issues.
These matters should be tabled. They are too important to be decided with proposals shown to other councilmembers for the first time at a meeting. And, that reality is exacerbated by the woefully inadequate performance of Addison’s attorney, who has repeatedly aided and supported Meier’s nefarious conduct with inexplicable advice.
But, if the Council does decide to proceed, I think there are some serious issues that need to be addressed. Meier should start by asking the other councilmembers for their views on whether Meier has exhibited appropriate decorum, including with respect to the AMLI meeting and his treatment of the applicant’s representatives. Other councilmembers should be asked whether Meier has encouraged discussion amongst the council and presided fairly at meetings, or whether they are of the view that he has dominated the meetings, ambushing the Council and then attacking other councilmembers who disagree with Meier’s opinions. The other councilmembers should be asked about what it’s like to serve on a supposedly deliberative body, when they are regularly attacked by Meier after the meetings via Meier’s one-sided mischaracterizations, and without an equal opportunity to present their views. Maybe the Council could review Meier’s disparagement of prior staff and management, exposing the many misrepresentations on which Meier has premised his absurd and incorrect claims that he saved Addison from certain doom.
To move forward on ethics, I think the Council must discuss the question of whether Meier violated the Open Records Act in orchestrating the improper withholding of Lea Dunn’s (non-privileged) memo. Or, whether Secret Addendum 1 to the Kanter contract evidenced a conspiracy to improperly circumvent the Open Records Act. Or, whether Secret Addendum 1 could possibly be enforceable when it was concealed from the Council, the public and even the staff, and therefore was never authorized via a valid motion at a meeting where it was accurately described on the Agenda. Or whether that failure violated the Open Meetings Act. Or whether Addison’s submission to the Texas Attorney General regarding the Lea Dunn memo that cited the Audit Exception but excluded the Kanter contract that expressly stated that his work was not an audit, constituted the type of candor expected of lawyers. And whether that submission stands as a clear indication that Addison’s current lawyer cannot adequately advise this Council on the issues of Decorum, Transparency and Ethics.
The Council should also explore whether Meier and Blake Clemens violated Addison’s Charter when they directed Eric Cannon as to who he could and couldn’t hire, using the secretive Finance Committee. Or, what legitimate purpose that committee had, when Addison’s Chief Financial Officer and City Manager were regularly excluded from its meetings. The Council should discuss the formation of a “Finance Committee” with no rules, no transparency and no accountability, at a meeting when this important issue wasn’t described with specificity in the Agenda.
And, of course, no discussion of ethics would be complete without exploring the 2014 election. It is important not only for what happened, but for how it was handled. Recall that then-Addison Attorney John Hill concluded that Meier had used his “official position” in connection with the 2014 election, in violation of Addison’s Ethics Ordinance. Meier’s tactics worked, and he gained control of the Council.
Meier’s new Council met on June 16, 2014, a month or so after the election, to discuss the Ethics Ordinance. During the meeting, Meier claimed that he and the council had previously reached an agreement that they didn’t have to comply with the Ethics Ordinance as it was written. Rather, they only had to observe a lesser standard (don’t use “title”) that wasn’t what the ordinance said (don’t use “official position,” broader than “title”). Think about that for a moment. Realize that this was Meier claiming that the Council could excuse itself from complying with the law. It’s straight from Orwell’s Animal Farm (“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”).
Anyway, the meeting quickly evolved (seemingly on cue) into Meier’s demand that the Council absolve him. Two things here; (1) the Agenda contained no indication that the allegations against Meier would be discussed, and (2) when it came up, Meier continued to preside over the discussion. Think about the ethics of those matters as you watch the work session. Here is the link: http://addisontx.swagit.com/play/06162014-802/#5. If you go to Minute 63, you’ll get a real sense for what was going on.
At 67:28, Meier says: “I really want it clear that I did not violate this provision. Is there anybody that feels differently from that?” As it wasn’t on the Agenda, neither the public nor the Council was prepared for the question. But it got even more interesting, as Meier led the Council to hatch a plan to provide him with supposed absolution, no doubt to be waved around during the election that would follow in 2015. At about 7:30 of part 2 of the item, Meier states: “I really don’t want some cloud… ethics cloud… hanging over me.” He advocates for passage of a “quick” motion by the Council: “The way that that could happen is that it could be very brief conversation, brief motion. Somebody makes a motion that the mayor did not violate the ethics code during the past election, there’s a second, passed, and we’re done.” At 9:34: “Are we OK with that process to resolve the past, at least as to me?” Again, Meier is PRESIDING at this discussion. And his new captive councilmembers were only too eager to agree. Consider the comments of Mary Carpenter at 11:15: “This would just be a brief motion that we vote pro or con that you did that you did or did not violate this. So it wouldn’t be in the form of a resolution or anything that formal?” So, a vote of the Council isn’t “formal?” You can’t make it up.
Fast forward to the Council’s July 8, 2014 agenda. The video is here (item R14): http://addisontx.swagit.com/play/07082014-999/#25. You’ll first note that the item is buried deep in the agenda. It is only 17 minutes long, and clearly worth watching. Again, Meier is advocating for himself – AGAIN FROM THE POSITION OF THE PRESIDING OFFICER OF THE MEETING. Thank goodness for Bruce Arfsten and Chris DeFrancisco, despite being banished to the ends of the dais. Based on DeFrancisco’s comments, Meier finally admitted at about 16:00 that “clearly he could benefit from the vote” and so he recuses himself from the vote, but CONTINUES TO PRESIDE OVER THE MEETING. And if you have any doubt about why that shouldn’t happen, watch what happens next. Bruce Arfsten begins to discuss his concerns. Meier and his captive supporters disagree and you hear Carpenter laugh on the record. Then, at 16:50, you will see Meier literally turning his back on Bruce WHILE BRUCE IS TALKING. Meier talks over Bruce in an effort to force a vote: “alright, there’s a motion and a second…,” clearly using his position as presiding officer to influence the outcome. Thank goodness for DeFrancisco and Arfsten, who ultimately derailed Meier’s inappropriate efforts.
But Meier TRIED, and that’s the important point.
So, as we approach the February 28, 2017 meeting, recognize that nothing legitimate can happen on the questions of Decorum, Ethics and Transparency without considering the issues I have repeatedly raised regarding Meier’s conduct. I doubt that’s what Meier has in mind, but it ought to be what this Council has in mind if they choose to proceed in the face of yet another Agenda by Ambush.
Addison deserves better, and 2017 provides us with an important opportunity to reach that goal.