Tuesday, February 5, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Harper-Madison removes three commissioners

After just one month in office, District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison has signaled her intent to remove three sitting commissioners from their respective commissions, and a fourth is already gone. One of those commissioners, Bryan King of the Board of Adjustment, pointed out to the Austin Monitor that under the city charter, members of that particular board can only be removed “for cause,” after a public hearing.

Harper-Madison said via email, “It’s a new day in District 1 and we’re excited to get new faces and new voices involved in local government.”

The other commissioners being ousted are Betsy Greenberg of the Zoning and Platting Commission and Michael Searle of the Tourism Commission. All three are on a list under “removal of members” on Thursday’s Council agenda.

Harper-Madison also removed Tracy Witte from the Planning Commission at last week’s meeting.

Harper-Madison’s spokesman, Caleb Pritchard, said with the exception of the Board of Adjustment member, all votes to remove members are effective immediately. Witte’s name has already been removed from the city’s Planning Commission webpage.

According to the city’s website, the terms of Board of Adjustment members all expire on Feb. 28. King said that while he has not applied for reappointment he intends to serve until his replacement is appointed.

Clarification: In fact, King’s read of the City Charter proved correct and, subsequent to publication of this article, it was determined that his service will not be up for a vote Thursday.

King said he had already been serving on the Board of Adjustment for “12 or 13 years” and did not particularly want to continue serving. He pointed out that he stepped down from the board after many years of service when Ora Houston was elected. He said a year went by and though he lives in District 5, he told the District 1 Council member that he would be willing to continue his service if she wanted to appoint him. She did and he has been serving ever since.

According to Pritchard, Harper-Madison has “zeroed in on some finalists for these new vacancies, but no formal decisions have been made yet.”

Neither Greenberg nor Searle, who was an aide to former Council Member Ellen Troxclair, could be reached for comment on Monday.

After he left Troxclair’s office, Searle got involved with a political action committee funding Proposition K, which proposed that the city audit each and every one of its functions, widely seen as a move by right-wingers to damage the city. Prop K failed. Searle did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Photo by John Flynn.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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