Workforce Commission ruled city had to pay

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

The Alice City Council voted Wednesday to authorize the city attorney to file an appeal of a Texas Workforce Commission ruling the city must pay unemployment benefits to a former interim-city manager who was fired earlier this year.

Ruben Maldonado served as human resources manager for the city from 2004 to July 2007, and served as interim-city manager from February to July 2007.

In July, he was fired by newly hired city manager Albert Uresti, who alleged Maldonado had attempted to defraud the city by giving himself an unauthorized salary increase.

Following an extensive hearing process, the Texas Workforce Commission recently ruled the city is liable for unemployment benefits for Maldonado.

On Wednesday, the city council voted to appeal that ruling.

Following the meeting, City Attorney Joe Torres III said the city was appealing the decision because "the facts do not support the ruling" made by the TWC. The city's appeal must be filed with the TWC by Dec. 3, Torres said, with a ruling to follow at a later date.

In other business, the council voted to authorize the city manager to negotiate with Jim Wells County officials to bring wastewater services to a portion of Rancho Alegre that is divided by the city limits. A portion of San Felipe Street between Beam Station and Apple roads has a neighborhood that is divided by the Alice city limits, leaving some of the neighborhood inside the city and some of it in the county.

Residents currently do not have sewer connections to the city, and have requested they be added to the city's system.

Council members said Wednesday they hoped the city manager could reach an agreement with the county on a joint plan to bring the services to the community.

The council also approved a subscription agreement that will allow the Alice Fire Department to conduct training sessions online with the Fire Emergency Training Network. The department currently conducts training with the network via satellite television, but the new agreement will allow the department to conduct training online at a savings of nearly $10,000 over the next five years.

The council also amended an ordinance to clarify language used in fee schedules for city tapping fees.

The council voted to authorize the city manager to negotiate an agreement with Phoinix Global, an oil field company located on Commerce Boulevard, to allow the company to lease a portion of a roadway connected to the business.

That roadway, which is owned by the city, leads to the city's brush burn location. Any agreement negotiated by the city manager would need council approval.