Message to the Stephenville City Council from Cindy Stafford

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Cindy Stafford said she and the city retirees plan on being outside the council meeting again tonight. She had also planned on speaking to the council, however, she was informed that she would not have the opportunity as the Open Meeting Laws are now subject to temporary suspension. Below is the link to the Texas AG for more details:    

https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/images/admin/2020/Press/Open%20Meeting%20Laws%20Subject%20to%20Temporary%20Suspension.pdf

From Texas Municipal League:

In addition to the above guidance, the governor suspended the new requirement (added by H.B. 2840 last legislative session) that the public has a right to speak on agenda items. The suspended provision reads as follows:

“Sec. 551.007.  PUBLIC TESTIMONY…

(b)  A governmental body shall allow each member of the public who desires to address the body regarding an item on an agenda for an open meeting of the body to address the body regarding the item at the meeting before or during the body’s consideration of the item…”

This is what Stafford wants the council to know:

Honorable Mayor and City Council Members.

Good evening. My name is Cindy Stafford. I graduated Tarleton and began work in 1973. For over 20 years, I worked for a good wage but with no health insurance and certainly, no retirement benefits. When I went to work with the City of Stephenville, the benefits off-set the low salaries. The retirement plan (TMRS) is what made the compensation package competitive. 

I retired in 2017, and shortly thereafter the city council took action to remove from TMRS the retiree cost of living adjustment. What bothered me about the decision to remove the cost of living adjustment is that the employees were not notified prior to the removal of this benefit from the retirement plan. The ordinance effecting this action was placed on the consent agenda. The council’s own rules of procedure provide that the consent agenda “contains routine items which are not controversial in nature and do not need further discussion”. Do you believe that changes to retirement benefits affecting 110 retirees is “routine” “not controversial”, and needs no further discussion?

Since 2017, additional actions have been taken by the city council to try and eliminate the employee retirement plan from the well-founded and well-funded Texas Municipal Retirement System, which has successfully operated for over 70 years. In its place, the city council is considering contracting with locally favored financial firms with little or no experience in municipal operations who manage funds from stock investments. Who would you trust: TMRS, whose sole existence is to provide retirement, disability, and death benefits for employees of Texas cities or Wall Street?

I urge the council to reinstate the retiree cost of living adjustment benefit in this year’s budget.

2 Comments

  1. I strongly support Cindy Stafford’s position that the city council should reinstate the retiree cost of living benefit for retired city employees. I suspect that many employees relied on this benefit being available when they elected to retire, and to have it removed certainly creates a financial burden on those people. Public employee salaries aren’t always competitive with private industry, and providing a benefit package through the Texas Municipal Retirement System, including retirement benefits with a COLA, enables a city like Stephenville to hire good, capable and loyal people who don’t just train here, but who will become long-term experienced employees. If the city council elects to change the retirement benefits for new hires, that’s one thing; but to pull the rug out from those who have worked many years for the city with the expectation of a retirement benefit with periodic cost of living increases is another. We owe them more than that. Just my opinion.
    Donald R. Jones
    Former Mayor of Stephenville (1972-1980)

  2. The City of Stephenville no longer cares about its employees or retirees. When my husband, a 25 year employee, was on hospice, no one from the city came to see him before he died. His employees in the Street department were told not to visit him, and only one had enough backbone to do the right thing. The city council people are, as far as I know, still in the pockets of big contractors and builders. All the old guard was fired or forced to retire because they would not bend zoning laws or cut corners for these contractors. Look around at the little apartment buildings stuck in between houses in single family residential zones, and look at the sorry shape the streets are in now if you doubt it. Any decision the council makes will be in the interest of money and not in the interest of employees or retirees, unfortunately.

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