After weeks of settlement negotiations the Palmview City Council has voted to fire City Manager Ramon Segovia.
The move Tuesday during the council’s monthly meeting came more than a month after Segovia, who had served as city manager since 2013, was placed on paid administrative leave.
The vote to remove Segovia from office was split 3-2 with council members Joselito “Hoss” Hernandez and Ricardo Villarreal opposing it while Linda Sarabia, Joel Garcia and Javier Ramirez supported the resolution.
Palmview Mayor Jerry Perez said the city council had been trying to get Segovia to sign a settlement agreement but those negotiations stalled in April, leading the council to place Segovia on administrative leave.
“It’s been dragging out, we just want to move on,” Perez said, adding he supported Segovia and did not vote on the resolution. “It’s been going on for a while and obviously they want to go in a different direction.”
Segovia was placed on administrative leave April 27 following a management review by Paul Vazaldua of the McAllen-based consulting firm Vazaldua & Associates. The report concluded the city lacked proper policies and procedures and highlighted several departmental deficiencies such as a lack of proper Human Resource policies, job descriptions and hiring procedures. The report concluded the deficiencies were due to Segovia’s inexperience and recommended he be fired. Vazaldua also recommended the city terminate then Assistant City Manager David Nacianceno and City Secretary Bertha Garza.
Nacianceno resigned last month and Garza is still with the city.
When reached for comment, Segovia referred all his questions to Houston-based attorney Bernie Aldape who did not respond to Progress Times as of press time.
The city council appointed former Weslaco City Manager Leonardo Olivares to take over Segovia’s duties once he was placed on administrative leave. Since his appointment in April, Olivares said he has been working with the council to ensure the city is in compliance with the city charter.
Olivares said the city has been operating on a “razor-thin” fund balance, an act that Councilwoman Sarabia said played a role in her voting to fire Segovia as he never provided extensive financial information to her fellow council members while in office.
“We don’t know if we can afford to keep paying two city managers at the same time,” Sarabia said. “We don’t know how much money we have and, from my perspective, I don’t think it was in the best interest of our city and citizens to keep him.”
According to Olivares, the city is also missing important documentation such as records of executive session discussions during the past four years, a discovery he says is “unsettling.”
“It exposes the city because any action we’ve taken is now subject to being void by a court,” Olivares said. “Our city secretary has looked and cannot find them. We do not know if they were kept and misplaced or never delivered. Usually the items in executive session are the big items dealing with personnel, contract negotiations, real estate, so it’s not good they’re missing. Who’s responsible?”
Segovia has worked for the city since he was 16, starting at the Palmview Youth Club and eventually became its director. He worked at city hall as assistant city manager under Johnn (correct spelling) Alaniz before replacing him in October 2013.
Both councilmembers Sarabia and Garcia said after the meeting that Segovia “inherited a mess” from Alaniz but believe they gave him enough of an opportunity to prove himself to the city council.
“When you have four years by yourself here, when are they going to take the training wheels off,” Garcia asked. “I’ve known him, he’s a good guy. I hope he does good in whatever he does and I think he did try to do his best and we appreciated all the years he’s been here. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to make decisions you’re not proud of but you have to do it for the sake of the community. It’s a difficult decision. Even when I fire my own employees I’m not proud of it, but sometimes they make their own decisions and fire themselves.”