San Antonio

Hiring interns: Paid versus unpaid

As spring semesters are ending, it is time to consider whether you are going to add interns to your summer and fall support staff. Internships (whether paid or unpaid) can be a mutually beneficial arrangement for both you and for student interns.

Internships are an excellent way for students to gain experience and an inside look at the way your government agency works while you get some extra help with your organization. The rules for hiring interns, however, can get complicated; especially when it comes to paid versus unpaid interns.

Can you block citizens on government social media accounts?

In a world where information can spread faster than we can keep track of, social media can be both a blessing and a curse. The government can communicate about emergencies, find out where public opinion lies on an issue and even humanize politicians and agencies in the eyes of the people. You can also upset your citizens easily with an ill-timed or poorly worded post.

If you end up with an irate comment on a government Facebook post, what can you do about it? Critics flooding official pages with anger might not look good to your citizens. Are you allowed to delete or block your constituents for any reason on social media?

Proper hiring process can save cities from future problems

Hiring a new employee should be an exciting opportunity for an employer, but some cities find personnel matters stressful. Employment law seems to be fraught with legal peril, starting with the hiring process. Many employers fear accusations of discrimination or other improper handling of an employment issue, and cities are no different.

Having a good hiring process in place, however, can save you from legal problems down the line. Simply having a consistent process that you follow for each hire is a great first step.

The apparent 'Catch 22' in the TX property tax rollback debate

Last month, we tried to shed some light on Texas Senate Bill 2 and the efforts underway in the state legislature to reform property taxing power by local municipalities. That post did not take a side on the wisdom of the bill. It only sought to highlight how, regardless of the outcome, local government entities will likely need to be more committed to finding creative means to achieve goals.

Companion measure currently before the Senate and House would further limit how much cities and counties can already raise property taxes. Right now, that cap is set by state law at 8 percent. The proposed new limit would be 2.5 percent. To get around the restriction, cities could put the matter to a local vote.

Taking a deep dive into Texas code on conflicts of interest

Public service, whether it's fulfilled by someone elected or on the payroll of a Texas municipality, carries certain ethical obligations. The reason why is easy to understand. It can be tempting to abuse political power for financial gain at the cost of the common good.

Trust is foundational to community well-being so it should be no surprise that there are laws on the books that control what public officials and employees can and cannot do in the course of their duties. In Texas, two of the most relevant provisions are represented by Chapters 171 and 176 of the Local Government Code.

Creative public financing may soon be more important than ever

There is likely not a county or municipal official in Texas unaware of the debate underway in Austin related to state efforts to cap local government entities' abilities to raise revenues they need to meet constituent demands. It's too early to say what the legislative outcome is going to be.

The proposal before the legislature would limit how much property taxes could increase to 2.5 percent. If local officials want to raise them higher than that in a given year, the proposal would have to be put before voters for consideration. Existing law already calls for such a vote if proposed property taxes reflect an increase of 8 percent.

When the law leads to unintended consequences

Workers' compensation is not a mandated benefit in Texas. That is one of a few ways in which our state differs from others. At the same time, some employers, including many local municipalities and political subdivisions do carry some form of coverage. The Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool (TMLIRP) is one such provider.

While one of the missions this organization says it fulfills is protecting those who protect us, such as firefighters, police and other government employees, there can be times when things don't go as smoothly as anyone would like. Conflicts between desired policy and legal requirements crop up. The work of anticipating issues and striking an effective balance between competing interests can be difficult, but not impossible.

A mass media glimpse into 1 city government's dynamics

It isn't often that the maneuverings within the halls of a city government make it into the mainstream media. When it does, it is perhaps worth taking time to examine the situation to see if there is something to learn that could help your community avoid unwanted, and some might say unnecessary scrutiny.

The case that brings this to mind is that out of League City, Texas. You may have seen the recent headline announcing that the city has settled a lawsuit filed by a former city manager. The cost was $145,000. The accusation it resolves is the former manager's claim that the city violated his freedom of speech by firing him after he filed an ethics claim against the city's mayor.

Mason's football title rampage confirms Punchers' No. 1 ranking

The dreams of most young Texas football players likely include showing their stuff on the field at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The dream came true late last month for teams from across the state, including the Punchers out of Mason. And the Punchers demonstrated clearly why they own the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press 2A state poll with a 44-6 win over the fifth-ranked New Deal Lions.

We at Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal & Zech, P.C., take this opportunity to extend our heartiest congratulations to the Punchers and the entire Mason community. You have reason for pride and we are honored to be able to share in it in some small way because of the legal service we are privileged to provide on behalf of the city.

ADA compliance: An ever-changing challenge

Greek mythology tells the tale of Sisyphus; a man who, for eternity, must push a boulder up a hill. Before he ever reaches the top, the rock rolls back down. Today, the term Sisyphean sometimes describes what seems to be never-ending work. Many leaders in Texas local governments might apply it to the task of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA is a federal law that ensures the privileges of civic life are as accessible to disabled individuals as they are to the general population. And Title II of the law requires state, county and municipal governments to be sure public facilities, programs, or services are accessible to all. You can plan to make accommodations with new projects. Retrofitting existing structures and programs is another story. At times, projects can become points of dispute and court battles.

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    San Antonio, TX 78212

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