La Villa admin quits, mayor takes over operations

LA VILLA — The mayor and city secretary are now in charge of the day to day operations here after the abrupt resignation of former City Administrator Arnie Amaro.

Amaro resigned at the end of the day on Friday, Jan. 3 just as he and Mayor Alma Morón were going over agenda items ahead of Wednesday’s regular meeting of the board of aldermen.

“He told me that he wouldn’t be here for some of the items that were gonna be presented because he was no longer gonna work for the city,” Morón said outside city hall after last Wednesday’s meeting. “He had decided to accept a job elsewhere in the private sector,” she said.

The unexpected departure put the city in a difficult spot — too late to add the issue to the agenda for the board to discuss in their January meeting, and scrambling to deal with a litany of issues that have remained pending since the sole meeting in December was cancelled due to a lack of quorum.

La Villa hosts only one regular meeting per month that requires the attendance of at least three aldermen; special meetings require the attendance of at least four. The board has a history of cancelling meetings due to lack of quorum.

Amaro’s absence quickly had an impact on the meeting, as the board of aldermen retired to executive session shortly after hearing public comments and one status report, but ahead of nearly two dozen other issues awaiting discussion. They remained behind closed doors for just over an hour.

Amaro’s departure further affected the board’s ability to move forward on a contract, which will need to be amended to remove the former city administrator as the point of contact for a city project.

And a vacancy in the city’s water department will need to be filled via other means, which brought the governing body to a discussion of how the city will proceed in Amaro’s absence. “It is the executive officer of the city, or the second in command — whatever (route) the city wants to take,” City Attorney Robert Salinas said shortly before the meeting adjourned.

As a general law, Type A city, state law dictates that the mayor serves as La Villa’s chief executive officer. However, the city’s organizational chart also outlines the city secretary as the next highest person below the administrator who can act in his stead.

The attorney characterized it by saying the city has a “two-edged” sword. “We can go either route,” Salinas said after the meeting. “Either the mayor, if she wants to assume the administrative role, can do it under the Texas Government Code. And the duties can also be delegated to the city secretary under our organizational chart.”

Morón said she and the secretary are combining their efforts to keep operations flowing smoothly until Amaro’s replacement is named. “There’s some things that she is aware of … and there’s some things that I am aware of that I’m able to lend assistance. So, we’re kind of working together,” Morón said.

She also expressed her confidence in the city staff, saying, “They know what they need to do. And, if given the opportunity, they will take care of the day to day.”

But as for when La Villa will hire Amaro’s replacement, that remains to be seen. The mayor speculated the issue could take two months or more. “I’m more than sure that eventually, we’re gonna try to get something in place for February, if not March,” she said of adding the city administrator issue to an upcoming meeting agenda.

Reached via phone Monday, Amaro said the timing of his new job offer in human resources happened quickly over the holidays — during which he was on a scheduled vacation from the city. “This all materialized over the holidays,” he said.

“There was a deadline. There was a start date that I needed to meet,”Amaro added a moment later.

The former administrator said he notified elected officials of his pending departure via phone, and city staffers once he returned to work Jan. 2. “I met with them that week when I got back. I came back on a Thursday,” he said.

Despite the new hurdle, the mayor remained optimistic about La Villa’s ability to continue to progress forward. “We’re seeing it as an opportunity to re-evaluate how the day to day operations were being run,” she said.

“This is an opportunity to step up and re-evaluate and make adjustments as we need to make adjustments.”

Amaro, too, expressed confidence in the city and its staff, particularly lauding the city secretary, who has served La Villa for over a decade. “I’m very confident that the city’s gonna be perfectly fine, if not even better,” Amaro said.