Letter states new city manager was moving her to a different city position

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

According to information released by the City of Alice Tuesday, former Assistant City Manager Sara Wilson signed a resignation letter written by City Manager Albert Uresti and City Attorney Joe Torres III last week, after refusing to accept a mandatory transfer to a lower position with a 38 percent reduction in pay.

Uresti released the resignation letter Tuesday, following an open records request filed by the Alice Echo-News Journal.

That letter, dated July 26, informed Wilson of "personnel changes" Uresti is currently making in the city.

"As you know, I am currently in the process of making personnel changes in an effort to develop my own management team," Uresti wrote. "Based on their performance, some employees will be terminated, asked to resign, demoted or transferred."

Uresti then informed Wilson that he was removing her from the position of Assistant City Manager, a position she has held since November 2006.

"After a long and deliberate consideration, I have decided to make a change in the Assistant City Manager position," Uresti wrote. "I believe the position requires someone with more experience than you currently possess."

In his letter, Uresti stated he was transferring Wilson to the Community Services Department effective immediately and was assigning her as a code enforcement officer in the Health Division.

"Should you decline this transfer, I shall have no choice but to terminate your employment with the City of Alice, an action I do not desire," Uresti wrote.

Wilson was then asked to place a "check" mark next to one of three options offered to her.

The first option was to accept the transfer to the Community Services Department, with a salary decrease from $65,000 per year to $40,019.20 per year, and to agree not to sue the city.

The second option offered to Wilson was to submit her resignation effective immediately, to accept a 90-day severance package and positive letter of recommendation "for any prospective employers," and to agree not to sue the city.

The third option was to decline the first two options and to request that she be terminated immediately.

Wilson placed a "check" mark next to the second option, to accept a 90-day severance package and to submit her immediate resignation, and signed the letter.

The letter seemed to contradict statements made by Uresti and Torres during an interview Friday, in which they said they were unaware of the reasons for Wilson's resignation.

A special meeting of the Alice City Council was called for Monday night at 6 p.m., but that meeting was cancelled because of a lack of quorum. The meeting has been tentatively rescheduled for Monday, Aug. 6.

According to the agenda posted for the cancelled meeting, the purpose of that meeting was to seek approval from the city council of the assistant city manager severance package.

Attempts to reach Wilson for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday and Wednesday.

In addition to Wilson's resignation letter, the Alice Echo-News Journal has also filed an open records request for the personnel file of Ruben Maldonado, the former Interim-City Manager and Human Resources Director who Uresti said was "given the opportunity to resign" last week.

Uresti said City Attorney Torres is currently reviewing that request and has so far declined to release the file because of a concern of "possible pending litigation" to the city.

Under state law, if Torres believes he has reason to withhold the file, he has until Aug. 10 to seek a ruling to that effect from the Texas Attorney General's office.

As of Wednesday, the Alice Echo-News Journal has not yet received written notification of any intent to seek a ruling.