GALVESTON — Slightly more than two years after being hired as city manager, Michael Kovacs has left his position as the city’s top administrator.

Kovacs resigned Tuesday as part of a mutual agreement with the city.

The council voted 4-3 to ask for Kovacs’ resignation. Mayor Lewis Rosen and council members Marie Robb, Elizabeth Beeton and Rusty Legg voted for the motion. Council members Cornelia Harris Banks, Terrilyn Tarlton and Norman Pappous voted against it.

Kovacs said nothing after the vote. His resignation became official immediately, city spokeswoman Elizabeth Rogers said.

Kovacs will receive $136,208.27 in severance. His salary was $140,000 per year. Both sides agreed not to disparage the other after Kovacs’ departure.

Neither Legg nor Robb spoke publicly during the meeting and both declined to comment afterward.

Rosen said Kovacs’ departure was for the good of the city.

“I want the city to grow,” he said. “I want the streets to be repaired, I want the everyday operations to go smooth.”

Failure to communicate

Beeton, who was one of the two council members to call for the special meeting, did elaborate on her vote during and after the meeting.

“We had issues with communication,” Beeton said. “I think Michael was conflict aversive, and he was working to avoid conflict as one of his highest priorities, and this is a position where this just isn’t possible.”

Before the vote was taken, Tarlton and Harris Banks said they thought any failures being attributed to Kovacs should instead be put on the council. They both listed some of Kovacs’ accomplishments as manager before saying they would not vote to remove him.

“Everyone knows that this has been a dysfunctional council,” Tarlton said. “If we’re going to talk about what’s lacking at City Hall, it’s the council, the management that’s at fault, not Kovacs.”

Pappous chalked up Kovacs’ departure as a difference in personalities, although he was more critical of the role of the council in that difference.

“City Council’s personality was predatory and divisive, and the city manager’s personality was uplifting and nurturing, and I think they were in conflict,” Pappous said.

A sometimes critic of Kovacs, Pappous said he had promised last fall to “give him a year” to sort out differences. He said he attempted to keep that promise Tuesday.

Kovacs’ history

Kovacs was hired in January 2012 to replace longtime City Manager Steve LeBlanc. He had been an assistant city manager for Park City, Utah. He also had worked in management positions in Port Aransas, Presidio and Surfside Beach, S.C.

Kovacs was hired in the midst of political upheaval. Months after he was hired, five new council members were elected, largely on an anti-public housing platform. As part of the conflicts with state and federal authority over the city’s plans for housing, millions in hurricane recovery money was withheld by the state, requiring his administration to find ways to continue projects that were underway based on the assumption of receiving disaster funding.

More than five years after Hurricane Ike, the city still has tens of millions of dollars in disaster recovery projects underway. While Kovacs last summer touted the city’s progress on completing $81 million in FEMA-funded projects, he also recently attempted to outsource the management of $150 million of community development block grant funds to the Texas General Land Office as the city turned its attention to the $12 million in local capital projects it planned for in this year’s budget.

Kovacs often advised the council against openly challenging the state on certain issues, sometimes putting him at odds with council members seeking stronger responses.

Kovac’s administration was also in a constant state of transition. From the time he was hired, the city has had to replace several high-level employees, including an assistant city manager, a planning director, a finance director and a city engineer.

Maxwell chosen interim

The council moved quickly to name Assistant City Manager Brian Maxwell as the interim manager.

Maxwell will serve as the interim manager until a new permanent manager is found.

Maxwell has taken the reins of the city before. After LeBlanc was fired in 2011, Maxwell briefly served as the acting city manager until an interim was hired.

Kovacs said very little during the meeting, except to suggest that Maxwell might deserve a raise because of the added duties he’ll have.

After the council voted to make Maxwell the interim manager, Kovacs left council chambers. Maxwell chose to sit at a table in front of the council and not take the city manager’s emptied seat.

“He was a good man to work for, and I learned a lot from him,” Maxwell said of Kovacs after the meeting. “We’re going to continue doing what’s right for the city of Galveston.”

No details on search

The council briefly discussed how the search for a new permanent manager will be approached, but left the meeting with no clear plan.

The city’s charter prevents the council from hiring a new manager 60 days before or after the May 10 election, which would mean a permanent hire would need to be made by March 10 or the next City Council would need to wait until at least the middle of July, longer if there is a runoff election, to make a permanent hire.

Maxwell said he would add an item on the council’s next agenda seeking clarification on the council’s intentions for the search process.

After LeBlanc was removed in 2011, the search that ended with Kovacs’ selection took nearly nine months.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or

(51) comments

Walter Manuel


It only took one hour for some council members to make their decision to fire Kovac's. It would seem that with that amount of time spent in actual discussion, perhaps these council members minds were already made up before they even went into the meeting?

It's not unusual for top city administrative officials to leave their posts when they get a new boss, so I doubt Kovac's was the only one to blame for that.

One things for sure... there's obviously no glory in being a city manager, but it is election time and people have a choice in making changes to their council members if they choose by electing someone who is supposed to represent not only their constituents of their district, but everyone as a whole! [wink]

Janis Kimling

Run, Michael, Run !! You don't know how lucky you are to be rid of the idiots that run this city. Good Luck to you !!!

Marsha Canright

This is very discouraging. If there is a substantive reason for this dismissal, it should be shared with the community. The fact that longtime city employees left for other positions is hardly an inditement of the city manager. This seems more evidence to me of a deeply dysfunctional council. A new search will be costly and wouldn't it be better to spend the money on fixing the streets?

Evelyn Clark

Yes JanKim, I agree. my steet is horrible

Mary Branum

Who in their right mind would want to work for this City?
Council must learn not to micro-manage City staff or this will be a bi-annual situation.
Another absolutely stupid council decision.
Thank you to those who opposed the termination, though it did little good.

Richard Worth

Government by vendetta.

Christopher Webber

There is a problem in this town where elected mentally deficient decide whether a person who has a chosen profession and experience can do a good job. That only comes second to their track record of bad decision making on choosing a replacement. Just being elected to office does not make you knowledgeable or even smart.

Steve Fouga

I'm with mwcanrig. If there was a good reason for this ouster, let's hear it!

As it stands, it appears this was the lame ducks' gift to those council members hoping to return -- a search for someone qualified to do this thankless job.

Since Tarlton, Pappous, and Banks voted in his favor, maybe he'll be asked to to return. (Given those worthies' reelection, which is no certain thing.)

Stephen Maradeo

The reason is that he didn't make enough friends within the city. But I think the public housing had something to do with it. From here on out, public housing will always be the heart of Galveston politics. You just have to make friends with those that are against it!


Rosen was one of the main people on council against public housing.

Magnolia Homes- I cannot understand why a brick building is destroyed. My wooden house was not destroyed. It just received damage. Kovacs was not their to make friends. He was there to do a job. I think Beeton needs to try and sit in his seat. Let's see what she can do besides complain

Ron Shelby

Sad. Some of those high level terminations needed to happen. As for a replacement, it would be "back room politics" if they named a replacement before the new council came on. They will really harm the quality of the new applicants unless a new council can call for applicants. At least some have already announced they are not running again while others are term limited.

Ron Shelby

My suggestion, make sure you don't vote for any of those who supported this move in any way. Wish them " good bye".

Steve Fouga

Well, that would be Marie Robb. None of the others voting for ouster are seeking reelection.

That was my point earlier, and why I hate this vote. The lame ducks voted to get rid of the guy; those most likely to be back voted to keep him.

Jarvis Buckley

The decision to fire Kovacs wasn't made in one hour it was made over the past two years of
Below par leadership. Know doubt a good man he was not allowed to grow into the position
Like Steve Leblanc. He will land on his feet know doubt. After all we are known through out
The state as the number one dysfunctional city. Why else would we be expected to have all Galveston county's public housing on our little debri filled island. Everyone with a brain understands why. To
Subsidize a half dozen big time family's here on the Island. Cheap labor, cheap labor, cheap labor,
We are so stupid. I have come to the conclusion, it will never change. I hope I'm wrong.

Kathy Maddox

Sorry Jarvo, but you're not wrong.[sad]

Jeff Smith

Has the dicision been made on the Interim CM?


Future Candidates: Do not apply in Galveston for the City Manager. It is not your job or what you do that matters, you have to a non-existent personality. The Galveston City Council has a Personality Chart they use at each meeting. When they disagree with you they put a tally mark down against your 'personality.'
Save yourself a headache and apply else. Ya think we can fire the mayor. He has not done much of anything. Ahh. we have to wait for an election.

Kovacs- we wish you well. Sorry, the council could not have been more professional.

Jim Casey

I don't know who in their right mind would want to take the job of Galveston city manager now. The "successful" applicant will be subject to nitpicking, personal vendettas, and a short career before hitting the street.

- Jim

Gary Miller

Many wanting a $140,000 a year job will be glad to put up with COG CC.
A $130,000 + severance package makes it even better.

Bill Quiroga

This will not change until the form of government is change. It’s not working as we all can see. There are many good people that can do the job but because of the political climate we get people on the council lacking the skills to lead.

Councilwoman Tarlton said it best, “Everyone knows that this has been a dysfunctional council, If we’re going to talk about what’s lacking at City Hall, it’s the council, the management that’s at fault, not Kovacs.”

It’s a sad day for Galveston!!!

ole dad

From the outside looking in this has the appearance of Good (Kovacs) vs Evil (council). Kovacs met all the educational and experience criteria. But in my in my 30+ years in management I never heard off someone being "conflict aversive" as a contention for nor performing their assigned duties. Managing conflict for a positive outcome may have been confused with conflict aversion. In my eyes Mr. Kovacs is the only one that actually met a predefined criteria that he performed exceptionally. I don't think we can say that about council. "Conflict aversion"...I hope that term never makes it to League City council.

Island Lover

This city is a rudderless ship.

GW Cornelius

Kovacs was not capable and should have been fired long ago. Now the problem is who the hell will want this job and if they do would we want them.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Good, bad or indifferent as Mr. Kovacs may be viewed, the Council has chosen to give $136k plus (of taxpayer money, of course) to Mr. Kovacs with no actual work required of him in return. In the real world (outside of the one inhabited by politicians and the appointees and staff they nourish), the rest of us are expected to work for the money we receive.

This dichotomy seems to never enter into the equation for politicians when they wish to rid themselves of someone who (wisely) holds a contract for services.

Norman Pappous

Michael, I would suggest that you review the publicly available employment contract that was agreed to by the CC that hired Mr. Kovacs.

It contains the information you speak of and will shine some light on your point.

Don Ciaccio

It's a very sad day in Galveston AGAIN. I can't do anything about Rosen, the worst mayor in our history, or Legg & Beeton, but I can and will fire Marie Robb as my council representative. Carolyn Sunseri will make a great representative for the folks on the west end.

Gary Miller

Isn't "us and them" most of Galvestons problems.
West end and East end must function as WE.
The People.

Lisa Blair

Don233, I'm with you. I live in 6 and will be voting against Marie Robb.

frank furleigh

Councilwoman Tarleton would make an excellent leader of this city in the position of Mayor one day.

Steve Fouga

I'm surprised by this comment -- after all, her political career is just starting. But I agree completely.

I'm glad others have noticed her leadership qualities.

Gary Miller

Voters agree.
Galveston is disfunctional.
Whos fault?
Council or Kovacs?
Or both?
Council majority blamed and fired Kovacs.
Voters can't replace the Council because not all are up for election this year.

Don Ciaccio

IHOG, I can only make change in my district. Robb is my "west end" problem.

Steve Fouga

IHOG, I believe this is Council's situation:

Rosen -- not seeking re-election
Legg -- not seeking re-election
Beeton -- term-limited, thus can't be re-elected
Robb -- seeking re-election, opposed by Carolyn Sunseri
Pappous -- seeking re-election; not sure of his opposition
Banks -- seeking re-election; not sure of her opposition
Tarlton -- seeking re-election; not sure of her opposition

So the ones least likely to return voted to oust Kovacs, and the ones most likely to have to live with him voted for him to stay. Doesn't make sense to me, but of course it's hard for an outsider to understand what's going on and what's gone on in the bowels of City Hall.

Miceal O'Laochdha

"Bowels" is certainly the right metaphor Jake.

But, where can we find the needed enema? Next election perhaps? We will see but, history indicates more bowels likely than brains or heart.

Kathleen Brennan

What a disappointment it was when some of the city council members fired the city manager without explanation. It is within our rights to know the reasons behind the firing of the two year old city manager when everyone knows that it takes at least two years to learn the ropes. What gives the city council the right to spend tax payer money to fire someone without explanation? We deserve an explanation. I am especially disappointed in those council members who have appeared in the past to nickel and dime city vendors while firing a man to the tune of $136m in lost money without missing a breath. I think there must be some vanity issues going on here.

Jarvis Buckley

Jake you may be on to something. Think it was a plan, not to hurt the ones seeking
Re-election. Possibly they all wanted him gone,just didn't want the exposure. What you think?

Dwight Burns

I suggest that the people of Galveston vote into office a balanced body of people who will put the citizens of Galveston first and leave their personal agendas behind. I suggest that Galveston, once again, be a city of inclusion and not one of exclusion.

The City Manager form of government has worked in the past. I remember the days when Doug Matthews was Galveston's City Manager. Many who are new to the Island probably don't realize that Galveston once had a Black Man as its
City Manager. Moving forward, since the election cycle of 2010, Galveston has moved back in time to a time many want to put behind them.

Steve Fouga

No, I meant what do you suggest Galveston do to be "a city of inclusion and not one of exclusion."

And now are you saying it's important for the City to hire a "Black Man" as its city manager? Are you suggesting that race should be a factor in selecting our city staff?

Dwight Burns

No, I'm not suggesting the City of Galveston would be all the better for hiring or not hiring a Black Man as City manager. I was simply stating a fact of History of Galveston's past.

Only the voters can move Galveston forward. Burying ones head in the sand and refusing to admit that a problem does exit, doesn't make the problem go a way.

Raif Smith

To me, a white guy, exclusion is this council ignoring the height and density work that the citizens worked on for about two years. Inclusion means considering the desires of ALL citizens.

The only thing taxpayers owe business are good clean streets, good utilities and good policing and fire service. As a private citizen, that's all the city owes me.

As far as economic development goes. Why do they spend my tax money giving special STUFF to businesses.

This town has a history of corruption. We need to be on guard that it doesn't return

This town has more jobs then citizens. Don't believe me- go look at the inbound traffic on the causeway. The water park at the airport recruits fornien youths to work there

As for mixed income housing- I'm all for it. I may want to live there when I get tired of home ownership

When people say it's n ot about money- it's about money
When people say it's not about race- it's about race

Raif M Smith

Rauline Vanda

So who is running for Mayor? Anyone know for sure????

Steve Fouga

I've read that Jim Yarbrough, Don Mafrige, and one other are running. I forget the other.

Dwight Burns

Good luck to Mr. Kovacs, who against all odds, worked within the law and in the best interest of all who live in Galveston.

Years from now when children read about the dark periods in Galveston's history, they will read of a period which started Post Hurricane Ike in the year 2010. The end of this dark period has not yet been decided. This end depends on the voters who have choices to make about the direction they want their City to go. One direction is a City of Inclusion, the other is a city of exclusion, where sadly we are today.

Guy Broom

Worked within the law? Remember these words "FEMA FUNDS"

Steve Fouga

So drumb, what do you suggest?

Kathy Maddox

I also wish Mr, Kovacs good luck. I worked at City Hall when he came in & felt that he didn't know what the Hell he was in for. Felt sorry for him. He was a nice guy. I couldn't stomach what was going on there & quit & moved off island. When are you people going to snap that the CM form of Government is wrong. The power needs to be with the Mayor & not all of the little personal agenda minded, larger than life ego, power hungry minions that are the City Council???

What else would help? Get off your butts & vote, Galveston!

Steve Fouga

Drumb, the reason I'm pushing back on your inclusion statement (which mytoby often voices as well) is that I find Galveston an especially inclusive place, and I'm wondering why you don't.

Galveston could be considered a flagship of racial diversity. Maybe Houston is more diverse, but there is certainly a mixture of races on the Island. I don't see blacks, Asians, or Hispanics being treated poorly or denied opportunities, but maybe that's just my perspective.

As for national origin, Germany, Italy and Greece have certainly contributed their share of outstanding citizens. Plenty of Spanish, Mexican, and Central American influence too. I don't sense any hatred, and not really any rivalry among these people of differing origin. In fact, everyone gets along pretty well.

The LGBT community seems to be thriving and apparently feels quite comfortable on the Island, possibly more so than anywhere else I've been. This particularly pleases me, because it DOES demonstrate an inclusiveness that most towns don't have.

I just read an article in this newspaper stating that some publication had rated Galveston one of the 10 friendliest cities in the nation. Sure, it was a cursory examination, but still it must signify something.

So I'm missing your point about Galveston's lack of inclusiveness. To me it feels just the opposite.

Dwight Burns

I don't need a history lesson on Galveston. I was born on the Island. Many of my friends teach or taught in Galveston.

Steve Fouga

You've decided to duck my question, haven't you?

Dwight Burns

Duck your question? Read all my comments and you will find that I had previously addressed what you are now asking.

Steve Fouga

drumb -- I read all your posts, and I can't find where you addressed why you feel Galveston lacks inclusiveness. I found places where you said a lack of inclusiveness was a problem that needs to be solved, but nowhere did I see a definition of what you meant by it, or why you felt it yourself.

That's okay. I'm ready to drop it. To me Galveston's inclusiveness is one of its defining traits.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.