City leaders and those at the Park Board of Trustees are in accord on little about a draft contract intended to consolidate and clarify their 56-year-old relationship, except the draft itself needs clarification.

The draft interlocal agreement, a contract between public bodies, emerged last month after a year-long review of city-owned assets managed and operated by the park board.

The review and resulting document are meant to update and streamline a working relationship that began in 1963 and has evolved through a series of agreements struck between various city councils and park boards empaneled in the half-century since. The goal was to improve accountability and transparency and eliminate redundancies in ways benefitting both organizations and their constituents, city officials have said.

Both the review and the draft agreement were greeted with suspicion and hostility among park board leaders, who have seen in the effort a move to undermine their autonomy and marginalize their organization.

And while park board objections to the draft document have been broad, they can be exemplified in a single clause and a definition proposing a $10,000 threshold on park board spending, exactly what spending being matter of confusion and conflict.

The draft states the trustees must seek Galveston City Council approval for any “new capital improvements” on city-owned assets under park board management, city spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said.

“A new capital improvement is defined as ‘replacement of an existing asset or asset portion valued at $10,001 or more’ with the intent to change the city-owned asset beyond its normal state of repair,” Barnett said.

Exactly what expenditure would require city council approval is not that clear in the actual document, however, Carla Cotropia, the park board’s attorney, said.

“It talks about the $10,000 for any repair,” Cotropia said.

Park board and city staff need to discuss and clarify the document, she said.

“The document to me is confusing about $10,000 needing to be approved or not,” Cotropia said.

It became apparent city and park board officials and staff disagree on the interpretation of the $10,000 clause after two articles by The Daily News mentioned the draft’s phrasing.

In articles on Oct. 31 and Nov. 14, The Daily News reported City Manager Brian Maxwell said the draft stated the park board would need to seek city council approval for spending decisions of more than $10,000.

Both park board and city representatives have agreed the draft interlocal needs more clarification and continued editing.

The document has created much misunderstanding, District 2 Councilman Craig Brown said.

“In my reading of the document, there’s nothing in the document that requires approval by the city of those items that are over $10,000,” Brown, the council’s liaison on the park board, said.

A statement about $10,000 only appears in the definitions section outlining capital repairs and improvements, he said.

Both the city and park board must talk more to clear up the confusion, Mayor Jim Yarbrough said.

The city and park board have separate financial departments and the city council does not need to approve the park board’s annual budget, both city and park board staff said.

The park board manages several parks owned, leased or under the care of the city, including Stewart Beach, R.A. Apffel Park and beachfront property between 61st and 69th streets, according to the city code of ordinances.

An ordinance passed last year required city council approval for any park board repair or maintenance expenditures on city assets of more than $125,000, according to the city code of ordinances.

Confusion about the draft agreement’s meaning have continued since city staff shared the document with park board staff last month. The draft document has not been publicly released, but The Daily News has filed a request under the state’s open records law for the document.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; or on Twitter @HeathKeri.


(5) comments

Charlotte O'rourke

Finally, light at end of the tunnel.

A draft contract normally requires clarification and refinement .... that is why it is an unpublished version and needs refinement through communication and mutually agreed upon changes.

Instead, of constantly calling into question the city’s motives, why doesn’t the Park Board change its attitude and tone and try to work with the city to obtain clarification of years of hodgepodge contracts and ever changing Park Board scope?

The Park Board has done a wonderful job in promoting tourism over the last 50 years, but I wouldn’t say it has been a beacon for understanding its relationship with the city and the citizens of Galveston.

The city contracts with the Park Board to provide some city services ... and the city is supposed to serve the public good of the citizens of Galveston as is the Park Board.

Everyone would benefit from a sound working relationship and clear reporting procedures to the city.

I hope the Park Board starts working with the city to achieve important accountability and transparency goals.

Raymond Lewis

I would agree Charlotte. However. I would tweak your final sentence to read that the Park Board and City should would work *together* to "achieve important accountability and transparency goals".

I suspect the city could have done a better job with the draft by having representatives from both the city and park board involved. That is; if transparency is one of the goals. We don't need the lost energy of distrust right about now since both entities are doing well in moving us forward.

Charlotte O'rourke

Sure .... the sentence change is better.

I’m disappointed in the PB trust level. Since the beginning of this exercise they have portrayed the project as a hostile takeover or diminishment of the PB by the city manager and mayor over repeated denials.

The facts do not bear out that distrust because the city could just take over by not renewing the contracts and taking over the responsibility themselves or hiring a private contractor.

As a past Trustee, you know the process, and the news articles are a little disconcerting stating the PB operates differently than the city and other boards.

Staff (city and PB) should be discussing the details, clarifying the language, redlines made, and then asking the PB and city council for further clarifications as they are further along.

The current code which I’ve pasted below limits “any capital” projects so to say that I’m confused other the hoopla in this area is an understatement.

I’ve always supported tourism and the PB and will continue to do so, but I would like to see better reporting including a comprehensive annual report (CAFR) which is required of all governmental entities in Texas, and a better understanding of roles between city and PB.


For purposes of this section, the term management and control shall not be construed to:
(1). Authorize the park board of trustees to enter into leases with third parties exceeding a period of three (3) years. Any lease for a period in excess of three (3) years including options to renew shall be submitted to city council for approval.
(2). Authorize the park board of trustees to make any new capital improvements on the property placed under their management and control without the prior approval of council; or
(3). Authorize the park board of trustees to undertake any maintenance or repair of existing structures if the cost of such maintenance or repair exceeds one hundred twenty-five thousand dollars ($125,000.00) without the prior approval of council

Charlotte O'rourke

Typo alert

I’m confused over the hoopla .....

Lisa Blair

Thanks for doing a great job explaining the issue, Charlotte. I think there's been way to much rumor and misinformation. How can the City conduct a hostile takeover of it's own assets? or the board it has appointed to manage them? We should all be on the same team.

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