The Van Alstyne City Council met in a special called meeting Sunday, with all Council members and Mayor Larry Cooper in attendance, to talk about the future of City Manager Frank Baker with the city. They did that in executive session, which lasted almost two hours, and which included input from City Attorney Julie Fort.
At the end of the meeting, the Council voted to accept Baker’s resignation, effective immediately. Baker was not present at the meeting, nor was his usual custom nameplate in front of his usual seat.
The next day, Cooper and Baker sat down with a Separation Agreement and General Release, signed by both parties. The Van Alstyne Leader obtained this document through a Freedom of Information Act request. This Agreement states that language used is mutually agreed upon, and that Baker was advised to seek an attorney if he wanted to before signing it. He also has seven days after signing it to revoke it, should he choose to do so.
The Agreement serves as Baker’s written notice of resignation. The Agreement states: “Employee (Baker) and Employer (the city of Van Alstyne) now desire to resolve their relationship, compromise and settle all claims which employee has or may have arising out of his employment and resignation from employment.”
The agreed-upon separation pay provides that the city will pay Baker “for nine months at his regular rate of pay, as of September 30, along with Baker’s balance of 134 hours of vacation leave and 712 hours of sick leave that have accrued under the City’s Personnel Policies.” This will be paid in a lump sum, minus withholding deductions.
Baker, according to the Agreement, is not eligible for future employment with the city.
It also required Baker to return all city property, including keys, documents, identification badges, computer passwords and other property. This was to have been accomplished before signing the Agreement. Baker also agreed not to sue the City, except in case the City does not hold up its end of this Agreement. He agreed to cooperate with the City if they have to consult with him on any future investigation, transaction, or such.
Baker has seven days to revoke the Agreement, but even if he does, the Agreement states, he is still considered to be not employed by the City, and the Separation Pay will be null and void. Both Cooper and Baker signed the Agreement in front of Notary Publics.
It was a short open meeting that opened with a prayer in which Mayor Larry Cooper asked God to help everyone put aside their bitterness and get on with the business of the day, and with the pledges of allegiance to the American and Texas flags.
It took only minutes for Cooper to read the required agenda items for the executive session. What he read stated the meeting would be in accordance with Chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code/Open Meetings Law. The items listed were, condensed here for brevity sake, to discuss employment, resignation or dismissal of the city manager; and to allow the city attorney to participate in the executive session.
Once the Council returned to open meeting, Council Member Teddie Ann Salmon made the motion to “ accept Frank Baker’s resignation, approve the resignation agreement, and authorize the removal of his signature authority (on city documents.” Suzon Crowell seconded the motion. It passed unanimously.
Baker had served not only as City Manager, but also as volunteer Fire Chief, leaving both positions open.
Members of the Council evidently designated Council Member Brad Clough as their spokesman, and his statement after the meeting was only that they would begin looking at replacements at the Oct. 10 regular City Council meeting. Until then, he said, any questions or concerns that involved city involvement or consent should be directed to City Clerk Jennifer Gould or to Cooper.
Cooper said, after the meeting, “All of us on the Council have absolute confidence in all our department heads and entire staff that they will carry on with their duties, to keep things going successfully.”
The meeting was held on Sunday because, after Baker actually gave his resignation on Thursday, it was the first day they could legally meet in a special called meeting. Sunday was also the first day of the city’s fiscal year, but Cooper said that was mere coincidence and not a factor.
“It was just the first time we could all get together on this matter,” said Cooper.
The Council had numerous local residents in its audience. When they saw all Council members’ hands go up in agreement with the motion, the sound of hands clapping filled the Community Center.
“We appreciate Mr. Baker and wish him the best in the future,” Clough said.