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Adler puts the brakes on foundation contract

Thursday, February 12, 2015 by Jo Clifton

After hearing complaints about the late addition to today’s City Council agenda of his proposal to use private foundation money to hire additional staff, Mayor Steve Adler has decided to slow down. There were certainly rumblings around City Hall about insufficient time and consideration of the item, which authorizes the city manager to enter into an agreement with the Mayor’s Better Austin Foundation Inc. Council Member Don Zimmerman had even suggested that the proposal be sent to the new Council Audit and Finance Committee. The chair of that committee, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, told the Monitor, “I would definitely support, and I think there’s a lot of interest out there in the community to have more vetting of this.” However, she said she did not know whether her committee was the appropriate place for that discussion. “I am definitely hearing concerns from constituents that they want to be able to talk about it more,” Tovo said. One of those concerns, she said, is that the mayor would have a much larger staff than any of the 10 district Council members. So it was not surprising Wednesday afternoon to see that the mayor’s chief of staff, John Michael Cortez, had posted an item on the Council bulletin board noting that the mayor had pulled the item for discussion, adding, “And we hope to have a robust discussion and address all questions and concerns. After the discussion, the mayor intends to move to postpone action on the item to our next meeting, so that further discussion may be had.” Adler also sent a letter to his supporters last night, which said in part, “The Mayor’s Better Austin Foundation will vet and disclose all donors. No money will be accepted from lobbyists, individuals or entities with business in front of the council, or any group or individual that has been involved in legal action with the city. The Community Cabinet will be subject to all of the same laws and restrictions that regular high-level city staff must abide by, including filing financial disclosure and conflict of interest forms. It is of the utmost importance that this process is done ethically and with the highest level of transparency possible.”

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