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The San Marcos City Council received the certified petition to repeal the agreement between the City of San Marcos and San Marcos Police Officers Association during Tuesday's regular meeting. Above, Mano Amiga organizers turned in the petition to the city clerk's office following a press conference on Nov. 2. Daily Record photo by Nick Castillo

City council receives meet and confer petition’s certification

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The San Marcos City Council received the certified petition to repeal the meet and confer agreement between the City of San Marcos and San Marcos Police Officers’ Association during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The city council was not agendized to take any action on the item except to publicly acknowledge the petition’s certification.

Mano Amiga began making the push to repeal the approved meet and confer contract after the city and SMPOA didn’t consider the Hartman Reforms, which call for an end to the 180-day rule — the statute of limitations for investigating wrongdoing by officers.

Mano Amiga, along with Pamela Watts — whose life-partner Jennifer Miller was killed in a vehicle collision caused by former SMPD Sgt. Ryan Hartman, while he was off-duty in Lockhart on June 10, 2020 — called for the “Hartman Reforms” on June 10, 2022.

The reforms also called for an end of delaying interviews for misconduct, officers are allowed more than 48 hours to before giving an official statement; public transparency for personnel files; an end to third-party arbitration; and end vacation forfeiture as a substitute to suspension.

Mano Amiga Safety and campaign counsel Andrew Cates turned in 1,294 signatures to the San Marcos City Clerk on Nov. 2. City Clerk Elizabeth Trevino certified the petition on Dec. 20.

“Our team collected 1,300 signatures from San Marcos residents in less than four weeks, clearly demonstrating the community’s demand for systemic change in police accountability practices,” said Elle Cross, Mano Amiga Safety Right to Justice Coordinator. “We now call on city council to honor our petition and the will of the people by repealing the Meet & Confer Contract and beginning renegotiations immediately — this time including all [five] Hartman Reforms — rather than wasting time and resources on an unnecessary May election.”

The Meet and Confer process is defined in legislative statute under Texas local government code chapter 142 where cities are allowed to meet with police and fire departments to come to a consensus on ways to modify state law to meet the needs of local entities. According to the city’s policy, meet and confer allows the city and the police and fire associations an opportunity to understand each other’s interests and come to an agreement on employment issues. The city and SMPOA began meeting for the meet and confer process in May.

The contract agreement between the two entities addresses concerns regarding hiring and retaining police officers, including providing higher starting pay for experienced officers, hiring certified officers without an entrance exam process, entrance exams offered in the spring and fall, and an increase to the maximum hiring age to 50.

The agreement also made changes to promotions within the San Marcos Police Department, which included the ability for officers with intermediate Texas Commission on Law Enforcement certifications to test for corporal with two years of service instead of the previously required for years of service.

The agreement addresses disciplinary actions, allowing the chief of police to file complaints for non-criminal violations 180 days from occurrence, criminal violations 180 days from chief ’s discovery of the act, and 300 days from occurrence of sexual harassment. The agreement allows 180 days from the date of complaint to take formal discipline on each category of violation with the ability to extend time for formal action on criminal violations not to exceed 30 days following final disposition of criminal proceedings regarding the alleged act

Following multiple meetings between city representatives and SMPOA, city council approved the meet and confer agreement on Sept. 6.

Organizers began collecting signatures to repeal the agreement in mid-September.

“It should not be the community’s job to hold cops accountable for their dangerous actions, but as long as this contract continues to grant them special protections that you and I do not receive, we cannot count on the system to prevent another tragedy like this from happening,” said Sam Benavides, Communications Director with Mano Amiga Safety. “We need systemic change, and that starts with removing these special protections from this contract.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Interim City Manager Stephanie Reyes said an executive session item to discuss council’s options regarding the petition is planned for the Jan. 17 meeting.

San Marcos Record

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