Westlake Seeks To Resolve Attorney And Manager Differences

The Westlake City Council held a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 2 to evaluate its city manager and city attorney and discuss differences that have arisen over the responsibilities of the city’s legal and administrative departments, as well as the Seminole Improvement District, which oversees local drainage issues.

The differences came to a head during a joint meeting in October between the Seminole Improvement District (SID) and the city regarding a land development approval where developer Minto wanted approval of a site without storm water retention that the legal department contended was needed in order to comply with county regulations that were in place before Westlake incorporated.

City Attorney Pam Booker said that Westlake has certain responsibilities regarding storm water reviews based on county code, but SID Attorney Robert Diffenderfer disagreed, asserting that the city’s charter and an interlocal agreement between the city and SID designates SID as the responsible party.

The discussion also raised a question whether City Manager Ken Cassel, who is also SID administrator, has a conflict of interest serving in both capacities.

Vice Mayor Katrina Long-Robinson said the evaluations were long overdue.

“This is the fourth year,” said Robinson, who recommended some type of training for legal and administrative staff to iron out their differences. “I’m glad we’re here tonight for the implementation of an actual evaluation.”

Councilman JohnPaul O’Connor said something was needed to improve the relationship between departments.

“Something has got to give, whether it’s a leadership boot camp… I think we’ve definitely got to do something about the infighting between departments,” O’Connor said. “We’ve got to get along. Something’s got to give. It’s absolutely hurting the prosperity of this city.”

Councilwoman Cara Crump said she felt some differences should be worked out before they get to council meetings, and Mayor Roger Manning agreed.

“The city attorney is here to work for us, and the city manager is also,” Manning said. “I want both the city manager and the city attorney to understand my viewpoint that nothing can get done unless it’s done collectively.”

Booker said she did not want council members to have the impression that she and the city manager do not talk.

“There are moments where Ken and I may not agree,” she said. “I have differences of opinion because of what I think is the law, and Ken has years of experience in local government to deal with from a different perspective.”

She said the differences are not personal, but issue related, which comes to the council to resolve.

“I have an obligation to tell you what I understand the law to be, and Ken has an obligation to tell you what is best from a management perspective, but you guys are the policy makers, and you get to make those policies,” Booker said.

Cassel said he did not feel that he had a conflict of interest in his position as SID administrator.

“I would be making the same decisions for the city if I had nothing to do with SID, because I’ve made the same kind of decisions in my past careers,” he said.

Booker said the drainage issue would be aired at the council’s Monday, Nov. 9 meeting when engineers and attorneys from both entities, as well as the developer, would be present to give presentations.