Following a two-hour regular session Tuesday night, the Van Alstyne City Council announced it was sending a newsletter written by the mayor to the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office and the Texas Ethics Commission. Council member Teddie Ann Salmon also announced council member Lee Thomas would be the only person allowed to speak on behalf of the city from that point forward until a permanent city manager is hired.
The council made no motions, nor took any votes, in open meeting for either of those matters. City Attorney Julie Fort said later that, as the new ‘media spokesperson’ policy also applies to her, and without the facts of what went on in executive session, she could not talk about the legality of the council making those decisions in closed session without motions or votes during open session.
Thomas said the “media spokesman” policy might amend some at the council’s special called meeting on Jan. 22.
The newsletter is one Cooper generally includes with the city water bills, which are mailed out monthly. Toward the bottom of the January issue’s newsletter, Cooper said he was “going to break with my own notion that I should not endorse any candidates for city government places.” He then endorsed current first-term council member Brad Clough for re-election in May. The council terms of Salman and Robert Jaska are also up for re-election in May.
The other item the council discussed and made decisions on in closed session involved an interview that Cooper gave to television station KTEN regarding the city’s purchase and use of land situated between the current City Hall and the Public Works building. KTEN reported Cooper said the city intends to put a portable building on the property to become a temporary City Hall. That location is within a 150-foot radius of the city’s main water tower. The vote taken for that property was that the city would pay up to $200,000 for it.
The Van Alstyne Leader submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for details regarding the purchase, but so far has only received copies of the agendas where the purchase was discussed in closed sessions, as well as the transfer of land title to its two current owners. The newspaper is seeking to discover whether there has been a property appraisal done on the land, which for years housed a lumber yard; if there has been an environmental study done on the property to discover whether there are still any toxic elements in the ground; and other issues that could affect the ability to build on the property.
In Salmon’s prepared statement Tuesday night, she read that the property is to be used for municipal purposes, and those purposes would be defined in the future.