VAN ALSTYNE — What was scheduled as a work session for the Van Alstyne City Council Monday evening became a six-hour meeting following a nearly two-and-a-half- hour executive session in which the council discussed complaints against the city and City Manager Frank Baker, among other topics. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and it wasn't until nearly 12:30 a.m. that the council ended the meeting, taking no action following the executive session, officials said.
Topics during the meeting included open session, informational discussions with the council members on employment laws, open meetings and executive sessions, and occupancy permit processes. The meeting also included a discussion on setting a procedure for processing complaints, as requested by council member Lee Thomas.
City Clerk Jennifer Gould said the discussion was aimed at how to process complaints that are made against members of the city's advisory board or against the city manager. Gould said the city previously did not have any set procedure for these situations because they were rare.
“I guess the general idea is that they'd go to the mayor and he'd handle it,” Gould said.
In an executive session, the council discussed four complaints with the city attorney that were filed with the city from Van Alstyne Economic Development Corp. Director Jodi Carr, former EDC and Community Development Corp. Administrator Kanita Larkins, local businesswoman Tiffany Clum and someone identified as “Ms. Izzi,” on the agenda. When asked for comment regarding the complaints, both Carr and Larkins declined to comment.
Since 2016, Clum has filed three complaints against both the city and Baker with the final complaint filed before Tuesday's meeting. Clum said her complaint Tuesday was in response to her previous complaint being dismissed and a lack of response and communication from the city.
“Today really stems off of the other two (complaints),” she said. “I don't see how they came about throwing out my complaint.”
“I would like to file a formal complaint against the City Manager Frank Baker for his lack of customer service skills and generally being rude to citizens,” Clum wrote in her complaint. “Last night during the Planning and Zoning Meeting-Public Discussion, Mr. Baker raised his voice in a defensive manner calling me “Lady” in a derogatory tone.
“This is not the first time Mr. Baker has spoken to me and other women with this tone in a public setting. I am also aware of at least one other formal complaint against Frank Baker at this time as well. I ask that this be added to his permanent record and (that) he be reprimanded.”
Clum said her complaint revolves around a certificate of occupancy for her upholstery business and a disagreement she had with Baker regarding a residential addition. In mid-2017, Clum said she moved her business to a new building and did not acquire a new certificate, due to a secondary use in the building that also did not have a certificate. Clum said city staff knew that she had not applied for a certificate.
Following a disagreement with Baker regarding the development of a new housing addition, Clum said Baker questioned her occupancy and the city asked her to close her business or face daily fines. Since then, Clum said she has moved her business to a new location, but initially had difficulty finding a building due to upholstery falling under light industrial at the time.
In June, Clum said she submitted a second complaint with the city in response to the handling of her first complaint. In her complaint, Clum said her initial complaint was closed with no communication from the city. Clum added that she does not feel an adequate investigation was held as investigators never requested information from her regarding the initial complaint. She also noted that the city's website is vague on the protocol for filing a complaint.
Since her initial complaint, Clum said, she has spoken to multiple business owners who have also had similar issues when dealing with the city.
Monday's work session came one day ahead of a regularly scheduled meeting in which the council started work on the city manager's annual performance review during an executive session. Following the executive session, the council took no action regarding the evaluation but waived its attorney-client privilege to allow attorney Julie Fort to speak with Carr and members of the EDC Board.
Van Alstyne Mayor Larry Cooper said the evaluation of Baker is expected to remain ongoing during the month of July with city officials prepared to start the process. When asked about the previous night's executive session, Cooper declined to comment.
When asked about his thoughts on the complaints against himself and the city, Baker declined to comment further on the case but said he feels he is doing his job as set forward by the city council.
“I understand people's feelings get hurt, but I am here to follow the rules set by the council,” he said.