How a Blogger's Accusations Almost got Councilman Marty Self Fired
Remember that blog that no one took seriously? Well, legitimate news or not, a recent article condemning San Angelo City Councilman Marty Self, who represents the Lake View area, as being ineligible for City office and in violation of City Charter since his swear-in made for quite the ruckus at the City Council meeting Tuesday, when Self appealed to the public and the Council to set the record straight.
The article, which accuses Self of leveraging his position on the Council to make sales for his primary business, Automatic Fire Protection (AFB), surfaced following the Oct. 1 City Council meeting, in which councilman Self recused himself for vote on an agenda item concerning a potential contract with San Angelo Security Services, which Self’s company does inspections for.
In the article, the writer makes note of Self’s recusal and a clause in the Affidavit of Qualifications for Office for City of San Angelo Elections, which would seem to evidence Self’s ineligibility for City office. The clause reads:
I may have no interest in the profits or emoluments of any contract, job, work or service for the City.
Self signed and dated the Affidavit February 22, 2013, meaning that if his business—the single fire suppression system supplier in town—benefitted from any City contracts from that day forward, his Affidavit would be invalid and he’d no longer qualify for office.
But the distinction of that line is where it gets sticky. Some state the mere fact that AFB has had City contracts in the past is enough to disqualify him from office, and that he perjured himself the day he signed. Others say that judgement is too sweeping and would discount nearly every citizen in a small town.
Councilman Self addressed the allegations at Tuesday’s meeting.
“It’s been questioned whether or not I’m qualified to hold my City Council seat,” began Self. “I have no ownership in Texana or its successor, ASG Security…My company, Automatic Fire Protection, has no subcontract with Texana or ASG for this work, nor do they…have to hire Automatic Fire Protection to perform those inspections,” Self said.
ASG Security is the parent company that purchased Texana and it’s subsidiary San Angelo Security Services in December 2011. The initial agreement with the City was signed in 2010. Up for discussion in October was a resolution that would allow the city manager to carry out the contract with an amended term.
According to Self, because his company is in no way associated with the contract in question, he wasn’t required to recuse himself.
“I recused myself primarily at the direction of staff, because they thought that it would avoid any appearance of impropriety,” Self said. “Actually, there was no reason to do it, so in hindsight I shouldn’t have done it.”
Indeed, Self’s recusal to avoid the appearance of impropriety actually had the opposite effect and opened him up to accusations.
In addition to the claims that Self has been invalid from the beginning of his term, the article also asserts that AFB has recent and ongoing contracts with the City, including renovations on City Hall and the current airport project.
Self stated Tuesday, “Contrary to the online article, I do not have a contract with the City for the airport terminal project. I do not have any contracts with the City. Templeton Construction has the contract with the City for the airport terminal project. I do have a subcontract with Templeton Construction for the fire sprinkler renovation,” Self said.
As San Angelo’s lone horse when it comes to fire sprinkler systems, it’s not surprising that Templeton Construction subbed the contract out to AFB for the airport renovation. That subcontract, says Self with the backing of just about every other Council member, was signed long before he ran for office.
Since then, AFB has forged no new contracts with the City on any projects, Self said, nor does he have any continuing service agreements regarding renovations or projects.
Having stated his case, Council went back and forth as they are wont to do, one for and the others against kicking Self off the council. The one firing accusations of impropriety was Santa Rita area Counciman Winkie Wardlaw, who cited lofty interpretations of legal language as evidence of a violation of the City Charter.
“As a lawyer I have a totally different opinion,” said Wardlaw. “the distinction has been attempted to be made, that just because you don’t have a written contract with the City, that you’re not disqualified. I don’t think that’s a fair construction of the language.”
Wardlaw stated that the City Charter is like the Constitution of the nation or the state, and is not to be freely interpreted as suits the needs of individuals. He then suggested involving the Attorney General in determining whether a violation of City Charter has been made.
Most council members did not support this proposal, and in fact referred to it as a waste of time. Councilman Rodney Fleming, who represents the southern part of the city around the San Angelo Country Club, noted that “This vote was all done before Marty was ever a City Council person…He’s never voted on anything that will give him any capital gain.”
Jim Turner, a local blogger at ConchoInfo.org who was on the last Charter review session, summed up the majority of the Council’s stance by means of analogy. “This part of the Charter is overly broad,” Turner began. “If you go by the most strict possible interpretation of this law, somebody is working at Walmart and if someone from the city comes in and buys anything, that would disqualify that person from holding…an elected office within the City,” he said.
Turner mentioned that if this strict interpretation had always been applied, then the majority of councilmembers would have at some time been disqualified.
Fleming, a real estate broker, concurred, mentioning that he’s certain to have sold a house to a City official in the past.
With the majority of the Council behind him, Self was allowed to keep his seat on Tuesday, and it is uncertain whether Wardlaw intends to follow through on his intention to involve the Texas Attorney General.
Calling for the Council to lay the issue to rest after 30 minutes of deliberation, Mayor Morrison called for a consensus, and got it, 4-1. Self abstained, Farmer was absent, and Wardlaw voted to continue the inquiry into the allegation against Self.
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