The dilemma facing city leaders
At the footer of City of Denton stationery, we find such words as “OUR CORE VALUES and Transparency.”
So what happens when a key city employee becomes, in effect, an enemy of a core value such as transparency? That is exactly the current dilemma faced by our city leaders in the case of current City Attorney Aaron Leal.
Since Mr. Leal took the reins from Anita Burgess four years ago, there has been a downward spiral in relations between City Council members, the local press and citizens alike by challenging the very concept of public transparency at every opportunity.
Unlike all his predecessors, he refuses to directly engage the public in open session explaining important matters of municipal law, citing attorney-client privilege as an excuse.
Mr. Leal has overstepped his authority and Texas attorney general opinions as well by attempting to censure public comments made by City Council members during and after meetings. He has refused to comply with legal requests for public information filed by local reporters, instead appealing to the Texas AG for denial. A secrecy cloud hangs over City Hall like never before.
More recently, he removed Board and Commission contact information from the city website citing bogus privacy claims, thus isolating citizens with sincere questions and concerns.
For all the above reasons, and many more, I now consider immediate removal of Aaron Leal as Denton city attorney even a higher priority for our new City Council than locating our next city manager.