Tempers flared among councilmembers and the public last week during a hearing to remove Sachse Economic Development Corporation President Spencer Hauenstein from the SEDC board.
Hauenstein was removed in a 4-3 vote with councilmembers Chance Lindsey, Cullen King and Frank Millsap dissenting during the Monday, March 7 regular meeting. Councilmembers Brett Franks, Michelle Howarth and Jeff Bickerstaff voted with Mayor Mike Felix to remove Hauenstein.
The action item was on the agenda because of an email Hauenstein sent to councilmember Bickerstaff.
Bickerstaff, a mayoral candidate, asked for the action item to be put on the agenda. The action item cited 505.051(c) of the Texas Local Government Code which states, “A director may be removed by the governing body of the authorizing municipality at any time without cause.”
Despite the agenda item citing a removal without cause, Bickerstaff said he asked for the action item because of an email Hauenstein sent to councilmember Bickerstaff.
“An email that’s sent from anybody to anybody else in this manner is not appropriate for someone who sits on one of our boards,” Bickerstaff said.
The email in question, sent by Hauenstein to Bickerstaff, said Bickerstaff’s victory in the mayoral race, “will come at a very high cost to you and those around you.”
This was posted on Bickerstaff’s official campaign for mayor Facebook page along with his response describing the email as “threats” and “political intimidation.”
Hauenstein appeared before council and filed a formal complaint to the City Secretary, Leah Granger, “for actions Bickerstaff took against the Economic Development Corporation and its board of directors.” In the complaint, he stated that he was filing a general complaint, not one about a Code of Ethics violation.
Within the complaint, Hauenstein stated that as board liaison, Bickerstaff “interfered with and bypassed the proper authority of the Board of Directors to manage the affairs of the Sachse Economic Development Corporation.”
Hauenstein also referenced a phone call that took place Feb. 1, 2021, between he and Bickerstaff.
During the call Haeunstein alleged Bickerstaff asked for an action item considering the dismissal of then-EDC Executive Director Leslyn Blake. Bickerstaff claimed he was acting on direction from council.
The complaint states Bickerstaff gave direction to Blake about the body’s strategic plan at the Feb. 26, 2021, EDC meeting which was contrary to guidance directors had given Blake.
It goes on to state that at a March 18, 2021, EDC meeting, “Bickerstaff admitted to keeping the EDC Board of Directors in the dark about issues Bickerstaff was having with Blake.”
Hauenstein also sent an email to each councilmember except Bickerstaff and Felix. The email states Bickerstaff acted as an ex-officio member and had a responsibility to communicate council’s opinion to the EDC directors.
The email claims Bickerstaff, “failed to make the board aware of the issues until they rose to the point that he called for her to be dismissed outright.” It went on to request a new board liaison be assigned to the EDC in the wake of Bickerstaff’s “malpractice of the role.”
Shortly after Blake’s dismissal, City Manager Gina Nash became the EDC’s executive director, and the body began reporting to the Office of the City Manager instead of the board of directors.
Several residents spoke on behalf of Hauenstein and asked council not to remove him from the EDC.
During the discussion of Hauenstein’s removal and the surrounding events, Lindsey said he planned to file a complaint against Bickerstaff alleging several violations of the city’s ethics policy.
“While placing this action item as an agenda item by councilmember Bickerstaff is legal, I find it a very low level of character for someone’s campaign to use his official position to place this agenda item to strike down someone who spoke up against a councilmember,” Lindsey said. “It should have been brought up by someone else.”
Hauenstein is running against Lindsay Buhler for place 5 on city council.
The next scheduled council meeting is March 21.