ActivePaper Archive Eunice councilor reprimanded for absences - Hobbs News Sun, 10/25/2019

Eunice councilor reprimanded for absences

Bettis says he needs 4-8 weeks of recovery following back surgery, will miss rest of 2019 city meetings



EUNICE — In a split vote of 4-2, the Eunice City Council last week passed a resolution to publicly reprimand Councilman Terry Bettis. Missing that meeting were Bettis and Councilman Steve Almager.

A 15-year-plus veteran of the city council, meaning he’s been elected and re-elected four times, Bettis said he’s disappointed the council chose this route to “encourage” him to attend meetings in spite of his medical issues.

Councilors Wardell Allen and Carlos Connor voted no, with Allen pointing out the medical issues and Connor questioning whether Bettis had sufficient counseling.

Later in the same meeting, the council officially excused Bettis from attending any meetings for the rest of the year on medical grounds. Bettis underwent back surgery on Oct. 17, with his doctor estimating four to eight weeks of recovery, he told the News-Sun.

For the rest of this year, the council expects to meet on Oct. 28, Nov. 11 and Dec.

9. Meetings in and around holiday weeks are normally cancelled.

On several occasions in the last year, the eight-member council had struggled to meet with a five-member quorum, sometimes choosing to develop that quorum with one member calling in by telephone conference. At least one meeting was cancelled when a quorum proved unavailable and after only four members had appeared in the first half hour.

City Manager Jordan Yutzy said Almager called the city clerk in advance of last week’s council meeting to report he would be unable to attend due to occupational travel, requesting an excused absence in compliance with a new elected officials code of conduct ordinance.

Almager had asked Yutzy and City Attorney Tommy Parker to develop a code of conduct ordinance to seek some control over councilors’ attendance. The ordinance, which became effective in mid-September, requires council meeting absences to be approved by resolution.

The ordinance also provides for a public reprimand, a $500 fine or removal from the council for a violation.

Last week’s public reprimand resolution states Bettis had been absent without excuse in the previous three council meetings. The code of conduct ordinance, approved Aug. 20, became effective one month later. The council has held only two meetings since, on Sept. 23 and Oct. 14, but Bettis had missed many meetings prior to the ordinance becoming effective.

Yutzy pointed out Bettis’ attendance record in 2019 is only 40%, missing 13 of 22 regular and special meetings.

“I’ve been telling the council for a long time about my back issues,” Bettis told the News-Sun on Wednesday. “I even took an authorization from the doctor that due to the pain medication I was taking, that I could only take it in the evening hours because of my work situation during the day because I can’t drive. I drive a lot in my job. So by the time I get home, I’ve been without the pain medication for 10-12 hours or longer.”

Allen had told the council, “He has a medical condition he’s trying to get fixed. I don’t know. I’m not for this because he’s trying to get it fixed. He’s going into surgery (on Thursday).”

With no discussion of the effective date of the ordinance among council members, Councilwoman Jessica Harper asked, “What about all the previous times he’s missed?”

Yutzy touched on Bettis’ practice of checking in after a meeting.

“He’s at a 40% attendance rate right now at council. I was running figures on it and in 2019, with him not showing up and asking questions after hours, he has cost the city over $2,200 in compensating time that (the city clerk) and (the city finance officer) have to be compensated for,” Yutzy said. “He’s asking questions about stuff that was done at council after hours.”

The reprimand resolution also includes the admonition that “Councilman Terry Bettis has taken to text message communications and his Facebook account to make comments that have not been appropriate


The code of conduct ordinance includes social media activities that may be considered detrimental to the city as being unbecoming of an elected official.

Since the majority of the reprimand pertained to the meetings missed, Bettis concentrated his response on that issue.

“My biggest surprise was they went all the way back to the beginning of the year to show this information, but the actual ordinance wasn’t passed until (Aug. 20),” he said. “They passed the ordinance and they did that in a special meeting. Then, they had the resolution to verbally and publicly reprimand me without any evidence or reasoning behind their resolution other than the fact that I had missed those meetings.”

Bettis added, “The other thing that kind of upset me was the fact that I’ve served on this council for almost 16 years and I’ve been a pretty astute councilman during that timeframe. For it all to come down to this few weeks or months when everybody up there knew my medical condition was a little surprising. I’ve tried to make the meetings I could make.”

Noting the City of Eunice is a state rule municipality, not a home rule, and the ordinance could be illegal, Bettis said, “I’m disappointed in the city leaders not doing their due diligence and understanding the rule of law for the City of Eunice. I have had nothing to hide on this council for more than 15 years. I’ve probably been the biggest grass burr in their pocket. It’s just who I am.”

Bettis concluded, “The ironic thing in all of that is that at the end of the meeting they had another resolution for me to be excused for the rest of the year. … They all voted unanimously to excuse me. I’ve always tried to do what I can for the citizens of Eunice.”

Mayor Billy Hobbs explained to the council the reprimand resolution could go either for, against or tabled. He said, “This is the first step. If it continues down the road, then we can take more action. But if we don’t take action now, then you’ve got to come back (and start again). I understand what you said about having the surgery, but what brought this up happened before.”

Voting in favor of the reprimand were Councilors Harper, Jerry Corral, Chris Meyers and Marty Rodriguez.

Curtis C. Wynne may be contacted at reporter3@hobbsnews. com.