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Bastrop city manager resigns

Thursday, June 16, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Bastrop City Manager Mike Talbot submitted his resignation on Wednesday, citing what he called “ongoing Council activities, decisions and directives over the past nine or 10 months, which have intensified greatly in the last several weeks,” demonstrating that the current Council wishes to be involved “in the day-to-day management of the city.”

Talbot has been at odds with the majority of Bastrop City Council since two new members were elected in April. At the first meeting with new Council members Deborah Jones and Bill Peterson, the Council directed Talbot to search for an in-house attorney for the city of approximately 8,000 residents.

The Austin Monitor first reported that Bastrop had spent more than $1 million in payments to outside counsel between Jan. 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016.

Talbot had previously declined to hire a full-time attorney for the city and, before the election, only one Council member, Gary Schiff, tried to make that happen. The two new members campaigned on a platform of cutting the city’s legal fees.

Last week, the Council went into executive session to evaluate Talbot with no announced results. This week’s meeting involved an executive session that included discussion of one of the city’s many lawsuits against one of its citizens.

One observer who wished to remain anonymous told the Monitor, “Many people have had difficulties with the planning department, the city attorney and the city manager. And the facts have proved that these citizens have been bullied and mistreated. The city has violated its own ordinances and state law,” and the new Council realized this.

The reference to the city attorney was to outside counsel Jo-Christy Brown, who received nearly $473,000 during the 15-month time period studied.

According to the letter sent to Mayor Ken Kesselus and Council members, Talbot’s resignation will be effective on Sept. 1. The mayor said Wednesday that he would call a special Council meeting for 8 p.m. this coming Monday to hold an executive session on how to handle the city manager issue.

It’s not clear whether Talbot will vacate his position before September, but there is considerable speculation about whether he will leave office within the week.

Talbot has stated previously that he would not put up with the Council taking over what he considered his responsibilities.

“Regrettably,” he wrote, “over the past year the gradual erosion of the Home Rule Charter’s segregation of responsibilities between the Council and the Manager … has culminated in a level of mental and physical stress that is seriously affecting my health and well-being.”

In February, Talbot offered a letter of resignation to the Council, which it rejected. In March, before the election, the manager negotiated a new contract with a 5.6 percent raise, giving him a base salary of $160,000. The new salary was applied retroactively back to last October.

In addition to the raise, Talbot’s new contract gave him four more years on which to count retirement benefits because he served as city manager from 1993 to 1997. That contract would have run through Dec. 31, 2018.

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