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Watkins' job still up in the air

Watkins' job still up in the air

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The Bryan City Council has spent more than 27 hours -- including 41/2 on Tuesday -- in the past two months behind closed doors discussing the employment of its highest-ranking official: City Manager David Watkins.

Council members recessed their executive session meeting just before 10 p.m. Tuesday without making an announcement and will reconvene at 3 p.m. Wednesday to continue discussing Watkins' employment contract.

Mayor Jason Bienski said the council didn't complete discussions of all the items on the executive session agenda and, after meeting since 1:30 p.m., members were feeling tired.

Tuesday night was the first time in recent months that the duties and responsibilities of the city's internal auditor were included in discussions during the council's executive session.

Bienski said all of the council's five appointees will appear on the executive session over the next few months as the elected officials prepare for their evaluations.

"We hope to be through with the evaluation process of the city manager in the near future, and we'll continue then talking with the city auditor and other appointed directors over the next 60 to 90 days," Bienski said.

Elected officials have said that matters discussed in executive session cannot be revealed to the public unless a vote is made and that matters pertaining to the city manager are personnel-related.

The executive session agenda also included discussions over Bryan Texas Utilities competitive matters, consulting with an attorney regarding nursing homes and personal care facilities, loans, the city contract with the Brazos Animal Shelter and economic development negotiations.

Watkins, who hasn't been at work since early last week after meeting in a closed-door session with Bienski, showed up at City Hall for a few hours Tuesday with his wife and attorney. The three met briefly in Watkins' office behind closed doors. Watkins did not attend the council's workshop or regular meeting.

If the City Council dismisses the city manager as expected, members will not be obligated to give a reason, but Watkins' contract is specific to the benefits he will receive upon termination.

According to the eight-page contract signed in 2006, Watkins will receive one-year salary and car allowance, all accrued vacation and sick leave, insurance premiums for a year and conversion of life insurance to an individual policy.

Watkins makes $165,000 a year and receives an annual $7,800 vehicle allowance.

He hasn't received a raise in two years due to city budget constraints. He received a 4 percent raise in 2007 after serving less than a year when elected officials touted his personnel expertise and economic development negotiations.

The only public disagreement involving Watkins was with Bryan Texas Utilities General Manager Dan Wilkerson and the BTU board of directors over the city-owned utility's financial records.

The City Council eventually sided with Watkins in the dispute and ordered BTU to hand over the documents.

Bienski has said the repeated executive session agenda item involving Watkins has nothing to do with the BTU dispute.

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