Volente mayor resigns, councilmember Connors speaks out about village divisiveness

After years of serving the village of Volente, councilmember Bill Connors cited concerns over a division in the city. The council called for his resignation in a resolution authorized last week. LESLEE BASSMAN

By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News  

One day after the Volente City Council requested the resignation of both mayor David Springer and councilmember Bill Connors, Springer resigned. Councilmember Connors shares insights about the divisiveness at the small village on the north side of Lake Travis.

In a June 6 email to Volente city attorney Erin Selvera, mayor Springer resigned from his position, effective immediately. Mayor Pro Tem Chris Wilder accepted his resignation on June 7.

Springer, who was in New York at the time, stated in the email that he had just spoken with his wife by telephone and “she fears for her safety” due to the “toxic” environment at city hall and in Volente.

“This is a remarkably sad day,” he stated in the email.

As reported by the Four Points News on June 2, Wilder confirmed the council hasn’t met regularly since January 15 due to the lack of a quorum. The council held one special-called meeting from January to the end of May.

Springer, who won the November election over Judy Barrick, has been absent from the city for most days due to a family illness that has forced him to remain in New York since before the election. Bill Connors, Place 2 councilmember, has also missed numerous meetings, according to Wilder.

Volente resolutions seek removal of Springer, Connors

The news of Springer’s resignation came only one day after the city council, by a 4-0 vote, approved resolutions requesting the resignation of both Springer and Connors in a special called meeting held June 5. The two resolutions cited Springer and Connors for not fulfilling the duties of their offices, with Springer’s 11 absences from regular and special called council meetings together with Connors’ nine absences as preventing the city from having a quorum..

Springer resolution

The Springer resolution stated the former mayor has been primarily living in Salamanca, New York, taking a position at Salamanca High School.

Additionally, the document stated Springer accepted unreported cash donations on behalf of Volente; hasn’t complied with council’s requirements related to an investigation; signed city checks without the proper authority to do so; changed city account passwords preventing councilmembers access; caused the city to incur banking and billing late fees; and, along with Connors, has delayed communications with the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority, a group of cities united to treat and distribute water from the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Last month, council approved a permit to the BCRUA to construct four monitoring wells in Volente’s right of way on Lime Creek Road, a permit that had been denied twice before.

The village’s roughly 600 residents are all on well and septic and span an area of approximately two square miles.

Connors resolution

The Connors resolution found that the councilmember neglected to present Volente financial reports for six months in 2018 and 2019, and didn’t complete required audits for 2016-17. The document also stated he did not comply with the village personnel policy; opened a second set of financial records and withheld access to the records from city officials; and was the subject of complaints in connection with being intoxicated in public, harassing a restaurant’s patron in June 2018.

“I’m just sad that this has gotten to the point that we are doing our residents a disservice,” Wilder said. “I think we need to change it and move forward.”

He acknowledged “there are a lot of hurt feelings” surrounding the dais.

“If you don’t show up for work, you’re going to get fired,” Wilder said. “It’s the only thing we felt we could do.”

He said the resolutions will be filed as a formal complaint with the Travis County District Attorney’s office that will make a determination whether or not to pursue action.

Connors speaks out

In an exclusive interview with the Four Points News, Connors said he “is very disappointed” in the actions of Volente leaders.

“The fact is I have been in town and available for all regularly scheduled meetings,” he said. “I haven’t come to the (special called) meetings because the three people from the Beauregard (Drive) area (Wilder, councilmember Sean Ryan of Place 4 and councilmember Jana Nace of Place 3) have been purposely avoiding a quorum at the regularly scheduled meetings.”

Together with council newcomer Cindy Metro, Wilder, Ryan and Nace all live within 100 feet of each other, he said.

When Springer was able to attend the regular sessions, he could have voted against this block, with the assistance of former councilmember Missy Thost who resigned in February, Connors said. Metro replaced Thost on the council and took the dais in May for the first time.

“What they were doing is coming up with excuses not to attend the meetings and then calling a special-called meeting, usually within a couple of days,” he said, adding that he has been accused of not attending the special called meetings. “I’m not under any legal obligation to attend (special called meetings). I do have an obligation to attend the regular meetings.”

Volente meeting minutes

Although Volente City Council meeting minutes are posted on the village’s website, as of June 7 there were no minutes online from the present dating back to November when Springer became the municipality’s mayor.

Four Points News requested these minutes from city staff which shows roll call at the special and regular meetings as follows:

  • Nov. 20 (regular) with full quorum/inauguration
  • Dec. 6 (special) with Wilder, Connors, Thost, Nace, Ryan present
  • Dec. 18 (special) with Springer, Wilder, Thost, Connors, Nace present
  • Jan. 15 (regular) with Thost, Ryan, Connors, Springer, Wilder, Nace present
  • Jan. 22 (special) with Wilder, Ryan, Nace present
  • Jan. 25 (special) with no roll call documented
  • Feb. 19 (regular) with Thost, Ryan, Wilder, Connors present
  • March 19 (regular) with Springer, Connors present
  • March 28 (special) with Wilder, Ryan, Nace present
  • April 16 (regular) cancelled ahead of meeting
  • April 18 (special) with Wilder, Ryan, Nace present
  • April 23 (special) with Wilder, Ryan, Nace present
  • April 30 (regular) Thost, Ryan, Wilder, Nace present
  • May 21 (regular) cancelled with no roll call
  • May 29 (special) with Wilder, Ryan, Nace, Metro (replaced Thost) present
  • June 5 (special) with Wilder, Ryan, Nace, Metro present.

Wilder said the city’s secretary resigned at the start of 2019, forcing Volente to hire a temporary secretary to fill in. The city has been short staffed until now and is “catching up” on transcribing and posting the minutes, he said.

“We had a giant gap where we haven’t had the resources to keep up with it,” Wilder said of the minutes.

Meeting dates

Connors said he often found out about the special called meetings on the day of the session and wouldn’t have known about them without looking on the Volente website or at its office posting.

“They’re not showing me the common courtesy of calling me and saying, ‘Bill, can you attend next Wednesday, Thursday or Friday — list your best times,’” he said of the remaining councilmembers. “They’re straight up calling the meetings and saying, ‘Bill’s not coming.’”

The father of 14-year-old triplets and working at his job for about 50-55 hours a week, Connors said he didn’t always have time to attend the special sessions.

Wilder said the city has always followed the law regarding posting notice of meetings at least 72 hours ahead of the session with one exception causing a 48-hour posting.

Inaugurated in November 2017, the twenty-year resident said he has been to every meeting since then except the July 2018 meeting while he was on vacation. Connors said only he and Springer showed up for the March meeting, forcing a cancellation of the session because there wasn’t a quorum.

Wilder said the March meeting was called during Leander ISD’s spring break, at a time when the other members were out of town with family. Nace confirmed she had spring break plans during this session. The council regularly meets on the third Tuesday of every month.

Connors council history

Connors said he first served on the Volente council in 2004, a year after the municipality was incorporated, and was on the dais for a year before taking a leave. He returned to city council, serving from November 2014 to November 2016 and beginning in 2017 to the present. Over the years, Connors said councilmembers often were at odds regarding zoning regulations, a large residential planned development district, a city lawsuit and its BCRUA decisions.

He said he plans to attend the June 18 Volente City Council meeting but is unsure whether or not he will step down without a protest if a judge rules on the city’s resolution to remove him from office.

“I don’t know what their reasons are for doing what they do,” Connors said of the council. “I believe I’m representing the majority of the residents of the village of Volente. I believe that I have an obligation to stand up in spite of this stuff. I believe in democracy. I believe in being responsible for it.”