Interim Councilwoman Mari Aguirre-Rodriguez is shaking her staff up at city hall, calling for suspensions of top aides in the office and the reassignment of others. Derek Roberts, the chief of staff, and Colin Strother, the senior adviser, have been restricted from city hall and the men say their access to the computer system has been shut off.
The council appointed the businesswoman and mother to Cris Medina's seat while the District 7 councilman is away on a military training assignment in Washington, D.C. Most expected things like the staff to remain untouched while Aguirre-Rodriguez votes on important city issues during Medina's absence. In fact, many believe the staff play an important role while Medina is away to keep up with constituent concerns and other issues in the district.
Roberts and Stother both believe that Aguirre-Rodriguez has nothing to gain by kicking them out of the office with such a short time remaining on her city council appointment. Medina returns from his leave Oct. 10.
"I don't think anyone could have expected that a temporary appointee with less than 30 days to go would suspend the entire staff," Strother told TPR. "That's not behavior that makes sense and therefore couldn't have been predicted by anyone."
The city hall veteran and policy veteran took to Facebook Wednesday to air his frustrations with his temporary boss.
"The San Antonio City Council really got it wrong with the temporary appointee for Cris Medina," he said. "Baseless, senseless decisions that harm the district are being made daily. The entire staff has been suspended or reassigned to other departments with no explanation. Ridiculous."
Aguirre-Rodriguez sat down with TPR to explain the decision. She said she wanted a fresh perspective on issues like the budget, which will be voted on next week. Jed Maebius, an attorney who was city council liaison under former Mayor Julian Castro, has been brought on to Aguirre-Rodriguez's staff as a volunteer.
Aguirre-Rodriguez said she has no negative feelings toward the members of the staff.
"Having been in situations like this before, both in my corporate experience and other governmental experience, when a new leader comes on board, they want the best proactive team forward and you want somebody with a fresh perspective who can help you maintain and make sure that you're going through, especially something as important as a budget, with fresh eyes and with the best advice possible, and those are the decisions I've made," she said.
The move also had ideas swirling around downtown about the possibility of Medina not returning to the city council when he gets back from training. Strother and Roberts, who say they speak to Medina every day, believe their boss is coming back.
Strother also noted that Aguirre-Rodriguez is backing down from a promise she made to the city council when she interviewed for the position in August. He said she wanted to maintain working relationships with the staff and the council for the sake of the district residents, and to provide continuity.
"I want to ensure there's a smooth transition both when I enter and when he comes back, make sure the staff is supported and provided guidance, making sure that his seat is taken care of in regards to my relationship with each one of you," she said in front of the council.
Meantime, both Roberts and Strother will have to keep up with the happenings at city hall. Roberts said while he may be restricted from City Hall, he can, and intends on, attending the council's public meetings.
Aguirre-Rodriguez wanted to clarify two points to the story reported by Texas Public Radio Wednesday. The councilwoman said that Roberts and Strother are on paid leave, which was included in our audio version. Secondly, Aguirre-Rodriguez said three of Medina's staffers who are in constituent services are still on staff and work in the District 7 field office.