The City of Conroe is going through some big changes after losing both their city administrator and chief financial officer in one night following Thursday’s city council meeting.
“It was a bad day for Conroe yesterday,” said Mayor Pro Tem Curt Maddux.
The Houston Chronicle captured the packed council chambers as members voted to terminate City Administrator Paul Virgadamo, who has been working with the city since 1997.
Virgadamo received a standing ovation as he left the meeting, still dumbfounded on Friday about his firing.
“A lot of that stuff they talked about just didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It seemed somewhat petty if you will,” Virgadamo said.
The three members who ousted him cited lack of communication and transparency as reasons.
Councilmember Marsha Porter sent the following statement:
In May, at our city administrator performance review, I was not privy to all the information kept from me in order to make informed city council decisions. I learned that there was a coordinated effort by the mayor and some of city council to amend our city charter. We would have gone from a council/mayor government to a city manager government. The city manager would be able to act independently and control most of the city business. Thus, putting our city council in an advisory position as elected officials. I felt this diminished the voice of the voters. I found out about this when I picked up my packet for the next meeting. We were not notified that an attorney had been hired a year earlier to research this issue. We were not informed of a EEOC complaint filed against a former city council member. We were not informed by the city administrator that SJRA was reducing the amount of surface water during a time of near drought and high water usage. The city was nearing our maximum demand to what the city could provide from our water wells. The lack of information was becoming routine. I have addressed these problems with the city administrator on numerous occasions with these significant issues. With the continued lack of response, I just felt like the time had come when a change needed to be made.
Councilmember Harry Hardman also sent a statement:
First and foremost, I want to thank Paul and Steve for their years of hard work and dedicated service to the City of Conroe. They are good men and I regret the way in which Paul was terminated. However, I ultimately supported the motion because of major ongoing transparency concerns and a growing unhealthy culture in which Paul was leading amongst staff. I believe a change in leadership was needed to ensure transparency, growth, and sustainability. As I promised when I was elected, I work daily to ensure Conroe continues to be the best place, in the best state, to live.
Virgadamo vehemently refutes the claim of poor communication and says he doesn’t have a blemish on his record, telling reportersd he and his family “will get through this.”
City Chief Financial Officer Stephen Williams turned in his resignation letter after hearing council was ready to also terminate him.
The claims against Williams were regarding receipts from a construction company for meals, sunglasses and T-shirts of more than $6,800, but he said his office had already decided not to reimburse those receipts.
Maddux, confused by the efforts to try to terminate Williams, voted to decline Williams’ resignation letter and keep him in office.
“They never gave clarity of why they wanted to remove Steve. I said it last night at council, I don’t know why Steve is getting fired. No one has given me any direction or any complaints to want to fire Steve.”
The Conroe City Council has temporarily replaced the CFO and city administrator positions as they begin the hiring process.
Councilmember Todd Yancey, who voted against the termination and resignation provided the following statement:
Paul had worked for the City of Conroe 25 years. Steve had been with us 17 years. Both men helped build Conroe to where it is now, one of the fastest growing cities in America. They will be missed, and I consider them both great friends, family men and great Christian men. I hope the city and the council learn something from it. We have a great counsel and we are working to get closer and closer and learn something new every day. When I came on council I agreed I would do everything right, no matter what. We have some work to do and we will be successful in helping build our city to a great place to live.