Frustrated with his repeated absences from city council meetings and from city hall, the Brookshire City Council has voted to cut Mayor Joey Vaughn’s salary if he continues to be “unavailable.”
The move came after Vaughn missed a number of council meetings, coming close to an ouster move by council members.
In recent months, there have also been numerous complaints from residents that Vaughn was never at city hall and did not return phone messages.
Several council members noted they also had difficulty reaching the mayor.
Having neither a city manager or city administrator like many other cities, Brookshire’s mayor is largely responsible for the day-to-day administration of the city.
As mayor, Vaughn receives a “stipend” of $15,000 per year, or $1,250 per month. He also receives a $2,000 per year phone allowance and a $5,000 travel and training allowance.
Council members Eric Green, Kim Branch and Jimmy Sanders all said they were concerned about Vaughn’s unavailability and the impact it was having on city operations. Sanders also wondered if, given the city’s tenuous financial condition, allowing the mayor to be paid when he was not performing his duties was fiscally appropriate.
“When duties aren’t fulfilled, do we as a council need to put something in place? Should there be a continuance of pay when the job’s not being done?” Sanders asked.
City Attorney David Olson said the council “has discretion over what they pay anyone.”
Initially, Branch suggested the mayor’s pay be cut $191.67 for each council meeting he misses in a given month. She also recommended the council require the mayor to spend at least 10 hours per week at city hall. For each hour less than 10 per week, Vaughn’s paycheck would be cut by $20.
Not surprisingly, Vaughn objected to the move.
“That’s just absurd,” he said
Vaughn also said he was an elected official and council members were trying to micromanage him.
Green then quizzed Vaughn on his availability.
“How available are you?” Green asked the mayor.
“In regards to what?” was Vaughn’s answer.
Vaughn eventually added he was available “24/7” because “I’ve got a telephone.”
Green pressed the issue.
“What I’m being asked is, ‘where is the mayor?’ People can’t get in contact with you,” Green said. “Your absence from council meetings has just caused more questions. Here’s a moment for you to give an explanation.”
Vaughn remained non-responsive, saying only he had “personal reasons” for missing council meetings.
Although not mentioned during the exchange, Vaughn’s absence from council meetings – as well as his apparent absence from Brookshire – has given rise to comments that he no longer lives in the city. A number city hall insiders said it was their understanding Vaughn had moved to Sealy; however, that could not be confirmed.
Following the exchange, Green said he could not support Branch’s proposal “without really know what’s going on” but also pointed out the 10 hour-per-week requirement only came to two hours per day.
“Mr. Mayor, can you give the citizens two hours a day?” he asked.
“I give the citizens 24 hours a day,” Vaughn replied.
Green again pressed for more information.
“Can you let us know if there are going to be any more absences at council meetings?” he asked Vaughn. “When the mayor is not showing up, it causes a lot of questions.”
“I can’t foresee the future,” Vaughn said, “but I will make every attempt to be there.”
Sanders then suggested Branch amend her proposal to eliminate the 10 hour-per-week requirement, but retain the penalty for missing meetings. Branch agreed, and that change brought Green on board.
On a 3-2 vote, council members voted to dock Vaughn $191.67 for each council meeting missed.
Branch, Green and Sanders voted in favor; Mayor Pro-Tem Marilyn Vaughn and Alderman Lyndon Stamps opposed.