CITY OF KATY (Covering Katy News)—The Katy City Council Monday night postponed a vote on a permanent police chief following pushback over Mayor Chuck Brawner’s recommended candidate for the job.
Brawner, late last week, decided to nominate Noe Diaz, a longtime Texas Ranger, for the position.
Ward B Council Member Jimmy Mendez said Monday he has received many calls expressing dismay both over the selection and its timing. Given that the city took a relatively long time to hire a fire chief, he said, the city should be more deliberate about finding a police chief.
Mendez moved, and Council Member-at-Large Chris Harris seconded, that the vote on a new police chief occur after the May 4 election. That vote lost, 3-2, but Mendez was told that he could move to “tag,” or postpone, the vote until the next meeting, set for March 11.
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Mendez did so and barring unexpected developments, the vote will take place then.
All this happened before the public comments portion of the meeting. Three speakers expressed concerns with the speed in which the matter was being handled and wondered why an internal candidate wasn’t being promoted.
Andy Wohlgemuth, one of the speakers, asked whether the appointment already been rammed through in executive session. Adrienne Davitz, another speaker, expressed her hope that the decision on a permanent chief would be made after the election.
Robert Wolfe, another speaker, described the police department as a “well-oiled machine” and didn’t see any reason the city couldn’t look for an internal candidate.
“I don’t understand the rush to this,” Wolfe said.
After completing the other items on their agenda, council members met in an already-scheduled executive session, where they met Diaz and asked questions. The executive session lasted about an hour.
“I thought we had a very good discussion about those kinds of things,” Brawner said. “They asked him all kinds of questions, and he answered them,” Brawner said. “All I can do is put this person out there and show them the assessments. I thought it was the best interest of the city that we put this issue aside so we don’t go three to four months of wondering who’s going to be in charge.”
The police chief, like the fire chief and city administrator, report to the mayor, but the council must approve their appointments. Brawner said council members have seen “everything we have available” on Diaz and that some council members have met privately with him.
Diaz has been a Texas Ranger since January 2008, according to his LinkedIn profile. He began his career as a correctional officer in 1986 with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He went on to become a deputy constable in Harris County Precinct 5 in 1994, then joined the Texas Department of Public Safety in 1996.
Diaz earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice/political science in 2011 from the University of Houston-Downtown, and his master’s degree in criminology in 2014 from Lamar University. He completed the FBI National Academy in 2016.
“He’s lived in the City of Katy for a number of years, and in the Katy area for well over 30 years,” Brawner said. “He’s officed out of our police department and he’s very familiar with the officers and how the operation works. He came out as our top candidate. He has a lot of experience working major crimes. The Texas Rangers are going to miss him, but the City of Katy is very fortunate to have him. It’s going to be great for our city.”
Brawner said there were over 70 applicants for the job, and the field was narrowed to five finalists. Candidates underwent a peer review in which they were interviewed by a panel of three chiefs and a former chief from smaller police agencies in the Houston area. Brawner said it was a common practice with promotions that a peer review process is used.
Asked whether hiring an outside candidate would be a morale bruiser for Katy police officers, Brawner said it was yet to be seen.
“They (critics) can say that and it’s unknown, but that’s yet to be seen,” Brawner said.
Covering Katy has filed an open records request for the names of the five finalists.
The new chief will succeed Bill Hastings, who retired last month and is running for mayor against Brawner. The council in January appointed Assistant Chief Tim Tyler to serve as interim chief. Hastings has endorsed Tyler for the permanent position.
The council Monday appointed Andrew Vasquez as city treasurer/finance director and Faviola Rodriguez as municipal court clerk.
In other action, the council:
– Issued a proclamation declaring Saturday as Texas Independence Day. The Sons of the Republic of Texas requested the proclamation.
– Issued a proclamation declaring March 12 as IHOP National Pancake Day. The Shriners Hospital for Children requested the proclamation.
– Reviewed the city’s bank statement and check register through the end of January.
– Approved the BP MS 150 Bike Ride for April 27-28. The event begins at Rhodes Stadium.
– Approved a street closure requests for Katy Market Days, which will be held on the third Saturday of March, May, June, July, August, September, and November.
– Approved a street closure request for Katy Market & Car Show Days, which will be held on the third Saturday of April and October.
– Approve a street closure request for the 2019 Katy Old Fashioned Christmas Festival, which will be held December 7.
– Approved a final replat for 18 acres at Woodcreek Commons Shopping Center, in Fort Bend County.
– Accepted public improvements for the Reserve at Katy.
– Adopted a resolution authorizing the use of up to $115,362.75 in general reserve funds for the purchase of emergency vehicles for the fire department.
– Authorized issuance of $10.1 million in Series 2019A bonds by the Katy Development Authority.
– Authorized Brawner to sign a second amendment to the agreement between the city, Reinvestment Zone No. 1, and the Katy Development Authority.
– Adopted budget changes, for audit purposes, to the city’s general fund and enterprise fund.
– Passed an ordinance declaring the city’s intention to remove territory from Waller-Harris Emergency Service District No. 200 and Fort Bend County Emergency Service District No. 2 for the city to be the sole provider of emergency services to that territory.
– Adopted a resolution authorizing Brawner to sign an agreement for automatic aid assistance between Willow Creek Farms Municipal Utility District and the city.
– Authorized Brawner to sign a services agreement with Fire Recovery USA for establishment and implementation of a program to charge mitigation rates for deployment of emergency and non-emergency services by the Katy Fire Department for services provided to people in areas without an agreement with the city.