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Attorney Wayne
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Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Practicing Law Since 2000
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I have a issue with the City of Katy , Tx. My wife went to

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I have a issue with the City of Katy , Tx. My wife went to work in Jan. of this year. She is a code enforcement officer. She was hired to organize and correctly administer code pracitces. in Katy. She is working under the Dept. Head. She has done and excellent job. She has recieved and excellent eval. from the Dept. head. the city manager loves the job she is doing. Unfornutaley she does make people mad in the city, asking them to do things they really dont want to do, but over all 90%+ like what she is doing. She does not know anyone from the area since she is new to Katy. She gave a warning 3 times to someone and it ended up being a city council man. there is a new mayor in Katy. The new Mayor and this councilman,. Have called a meeting for monday night the 26th of aug. to discuss firing my wife. She has done nothing wrong. The entire city administrators are behind her. But Council will go into executive session to discuss her employment. regardless of what the city manger or dept head says. WHat can we do???
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Hello. Thanks for contacting us. You raise an interesting and important question for any municipal government: when must a lawmaker recuse him or herself due to a conflict of interest. Retribution for a city employee doing his or her job is problematic under any ethics code in the country.

So for starters, I might contact the Texas Ethic Commission. Staff there may have suggestions and can even provide information on the particular laws that apply -- and provide forms for filing a complaint should adverse action arise from the council vote.

Another legal issue is the status of employment. Some jobs are contractual -- so that they are at the whim or fancy of a particular board or council for a set period; others are staff jobs governed by the city's official employment policies (unless considered a police officer, as a code enforcement officer, in which case, it may be covered by the Texas Civil Service statute).

Either way, any job that is not limited by a contract term is covered by a series of judicial ruling requiring due process in firing. That means a statement of why discipline has occurred, the opportunity for a hearing (it could be a "paper hearing" that takes place not orally, but based on submitted pleadings and documentation), as well a right to be free from harassment for doing one's job properly.

Sadly, if there is an over-reach by certain elected officials, then it may become necessary to hire a lawyer to assist -- as so much of this is procedural in nature, that one would not want to lose a case because of a procedural flaw. Experience lawyers in a particular field of law are less apt to make those kind of mistakes than is someone representing his or herself.

That lawyer might also discuss if there is also a possible public relations strategy that may be helpful. If there is evidence that the harassment is being conducted at the behest of a council member who is attempting to avoid compliance, there may be subtle and not-so-subtle ways to get the information to news reporters. They love a good scandal -- and if this appears to a reporter to also be inappropriate abuse of power by an elected official, that would be another means of redress.

But unless very skilled with media relations, it is important to be cautious. Some jobs have some things that are, by law, confidential. Employment policies can sometimes forbid certain kind of media contacts. So it is crucial to be sure of the parameters before going down this road. Again, a lawyer experienced in local government employment issues will have some ideas and opinions on this aspect of an overall strategy.

I wish you and your family speedy and successful resolution in this matter.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I also was wondering, Monday night they will have a council meeting concerning several issues, but the one concerning my wife will go into exucutive session. She has the right, at the time they are about to enter the session, to delcare it be heard in a public forum. This way it will be publicly heard. If it goes to behind closed doors. it can never be heard , and does not have to be recorded. What should we do?/

Wow. That's quite a choice. Worry over potential public embarrassment vs bringing something into the light of day.

While we can give you information about what the law is, we really don't have the knowledge of the case to be able to advise on a legal choice like that. The reason is simply that this can only be made by one's own lawyer after reviewing all the facts, circumstances and documents in complete confidentiality -- protected by attorney-client privilege. That is something simply impossible to provide on a publicly-accessible legal information web site.

But I can go over some questions to ask in developing a list of pros and cons.

These include:
1. What are the possible repercussion of a public airing? Will it harm the employee's reputation or will it force the council to behave better because the world is watching?

2. Would it be worthwhile to let local news reporters know in advance, if open session, so the council won't feel empowered to act as if its in private since there might be hardly anyone present.

3. Has the city manager or the direct supervisor provided any advice?

4. Has the council done this before -- and in what circumstances?

Again, I would contact the state ethics officials, too -- as there may be something amiss that an inquiry from Austin might help right.

I wish you and your family, again, speedy resolution in this matter.
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