SAN ANTONIO – Council members’ concerns over the process for appointing trustees to the SAWS and CPS Energy boards spurred lengthy discussions Thursday but ultimately weren’t enough to derail the newest appointments to the utilities’ boards.
Both utilities, especially CPS, have been under increased scrutiny since the February freeze exposed issues with the city’s utilities, as well as the statewide power grid. Though both are owned by the city, the city council’s main form of oversight and control over SAWS and CPS Energy is through its power to confirm the utilities’ board members.
Council voted 6-4 with one abstention to appoint Marilu Reyna to the SAWS Board of Trustees as the representative for the Southeast quadrant, immediately filling a vacant seat on the board. Reyna is a public relations executive and a current board member of Port San Antonio and the City Bond Oversight Commission.
Council also voted 8-0 with three abstentions to confirm Francine Romero as the Northwest quadrant representative on the CPS Energy Board of Trustees, replacing outgoing trustee Ed Kelley by February 2022. Romero is the public administration department chair at UTSA and the chairwoman of the city’s Conservation Advisory Board, which advises the city’s efforts to protect the Edwards Aquifer through land acquisitions and easements.
Both votes were preceded by failed attempts to delay the appointments based on concerns over the processes, which are different for each board.
SAWS trustees are chosen by the city council’s Governance Committee and are then sent to the full council for approval.
However, District 9 Councilman John Courage, who is a member of the Governance Committee, said the committee’s choice is just a recommendation. Courage said there was another candidate he felt should have been the one put forward and made the motion to table the discussion, hoping that the full council would have the opportunity to interview all of the candidates, not just Reyna.
“I feel like before I would want the full council to vote on who is going to sit in that seat, they all should have as much information as possible, including an interview with the candidates so that you can make an informed decision,” Courage said.
Five council members tried to delay Reyna’s appointment vote but were unsuccessful: Courage, Mario Bravo (D1), Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2), Teri Castillo (D5), and Ana Sandoval (D7).
Courage abstained from Reyna’s successive confirmation vote while the other four voted against it.
The CPS Energy Board of Trustees chooses its own members, which are then confirmed by the city council. Asked about any public hearings by McKee-Rodriguez, CPS Energy Board Chairman Willis Mackey said he didn’t remember being part of one.
McKee-Rodriguez made the motion to delay the vote, saying there should be a hearing before the council votes, so they could get public input.
“I’d like to think that every council person weighs public input. I truly want to believe that,” McKee-Rodriguez said.” This right now - we were just now willing to potentially delay a vote of a seat that is vacant. This one isn’t going to be filled until next year. We have time to include public input.”
He, Bravo, and Castillo voted to delay the vote, and after that effort failed, all abstained from the confirmation vote.
Bravo told KSAT after the meeting that he wanted a more a transparent and inclusive process for selecting nominees to the utilities’ boards.
“So with one, the CPS Energy Board decides on the nominee and brings them to council and expects us to support them. And another one they were taken to - the SAWS applicant was taken through the city’s Governance Committee. And so the Governance Committee expects us to support the person. I don’t like someone choosing for us who our nominee is going to be, specifically with a SAWS appointee,” Bravo said, noting that the Southeast quadrant covers multiple council districts, which he says aren’t afforded an opportunity to select the nominee.