Alpine Mayor to seek Attorney General Ruling

Alpine City Mayor Andy Ramos will seek an opinion from the Attorney General seeking clarification of the Alpine City Charter.

In particular, Ramos told the Gazette he would ask whether the Mayor can vote in a motion to terminate the city manager and what number of votes of the city council is required to terminate a city manager.

On Thursday, July 11, Ramos had this exchange with Gazette publisher John Waters:

MAYOR RAMOS: “This morning I was talking to Mick [Mckamie] our City Attorney, I’m a little confused on this thing and he says, “Well Mayor it takes the majority of the six on the Council and you really can’t vote on it but it doesn’t make a difference because they didn’t have the four votes. So I was corrected in that matter.”

WATERS: Is Mick [Mckamie] saying you should not have voted?

MAYOR RAMOS: “He says your vote only goes when it’s a matter of a tie-breaker or if you have less than five on the council then you can vote. I was under the understanding when it came to the City Manager, I was a vote, OK he’s saying no, you really shouldn’t vote but the motion died because it was three against two and you need four. I know it’s a bit confusing but that’s why I made a call because if I wanted to make sure if it comes up again, if I’m doing it right or not. OK, so now I got the correct verbiage that you don’t vote on it but they had to have four votes period.”

Less then a week later at the July 16 Alpine City Council meeting, Ramos rejected that legal opinion by the then City Attorney Mick Mckamie that the mayor should not vote regarding the city manager except to break a tie.

At that meeting, Ramos introduced a legal opinion from March 2005, by attorney David Brooks, who wrote “It is my opinion that a vote by the “full city council” entitles the entire city council to vote, which includes the mayor. A majority of the full city council in Alpine is four members.”

This reporter challenged Ramos’s abrupt flip-flop on the issue and that discussion ended when Council Member Rick Stephens Ward-5 opined the issue was beyond the scope of the agenda item that was a question to terminate the City Attorney Mick McKamie and the firm Taylor Olsen Adkins Stralla and Elam LLP. The council voted 3 to 2 to terminate the City Attorney.  Council Members, Curry, Escovedo, and Stephens voted to terminate and Olivas and Fitzgerald vote to retain the attorney.

In an April 2013 vote to terminate then-City Manager Chuy Garcia, then-Mayor Avinash Rangra was instructed by the city attorney and Garcia was terminated in a 3-2 vote without the mayor voting.

On July 18, Ramos told the Gazette he would seek an opinion from the Attorney General and he said the 2005 legal interpretation of the Mayor’s ability to cast a vote set a legal precedent and could not be challenged, thereby rendering the 2016 opinion invalid.  The 2005 opinion cited by Ramos is only the opinion of one attorney and not a legal precedent.

It is unlikely the attorney general will consider a request by Ramos as he does not meet any of the criteria of the authorized requestors of an opinion from the attorney general.

According to the Office of the Attorney General list of those authorized to request an opinion are the governor, head of a department of a state government, the head or board of a penal institution, the head or board of an eleemosynary [charitable] institution, the head of a state board, a regent or trustee of a state educational institution, a committee of a house of a house of the Texas Legislature, a county auditor, the chairman of the governing board of a river authority, or a district attorney.

The City Charter largely limits the Mayor’s power to ceremonial matters and may preclude him from formally communicating with the Attorney General. According to the Charter: “The Mayor shall preside at meetings of the Council and shall be recognized as the head of the City government for all ceremonial purposes and by the Governor for purposes of military law, but shall have no administrative duties.”

Currently, the City of Alpine does not have a City Attorney to advise the city on this matter.

This article has been updated with a correction regarding the city council vote of July 16.

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