Houston council members spar over mayor's board choice

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Houston city council members traded verbal jabs Wednesday over the mayor's appointment of his chief of staff to a district management board.

Mayor Sylvester Turner appointed Marvalette Hunter, his chief of staff of the last few months, to the Near Northwest Management District board of directors.

Council member Brenda Stardig asked the council to consider approving the appointments, minus Hunter, because it would "create a large conflict of interest."

Because of her position with the mayor, Hunter would not be able to take part in or vote on any discussion about contracts or issues that relate directly to the city of Houston, a city legal opinion said.

Stardig suggested it would be better to have someone on the board who could fully participate on the board.

The issue drew the ire of council member Dwight Boykins, who angrily claimed Stardig brought the issue up "in front of the public and the media" to cause problems.

"[Hunter] is playing by the rules, she's doing it the way it should be done, there's a legal opinion saying it's fine," Boykins said. "[It's] to embarrass this lady on purpose -- it's not right. And I'm getting sick of it, man."

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RAW: Council members appear to take a vote, the votes are counted, then the mayor calls for more council members before a new vote that goes the other way.

"I'm not going to sit up here and allow council member Stardig to derail an administration trying to move this damn city forward. I'm getting sick of it."

"There is no conflict," Turner said.

Hunter is the largest property owner in the area and had previously served on the board, Turner said.

Neither Hunter nor her company has done any work for the management district, a spokesperson told ABC13.

Voting on Stardig's motion seemed to begin, the mayor counted up votes, then it stopped when the Mayor asked for council members to return to the chamber for a vote.

Stardig charged he was trying to drum up votes for his side.

"As long as I'm the mayor, we're going to conduct business my way-- the way I see it," Turner said in response.

Whether it was legal or not, having the mayor's top staffer on the board didn't look good, said council member Greg Travis.

Other members may be less likely to vote against someone who is so close to the mayor, Travis said.

"You may wind up neutering the other nine [members of the board]," Travis said.

The district spans through council member Ellen Cohen and Jerry Davis' district as well. Neither expressed any issue with Hunter's appointment.

Stardig withdrew her motion after about a half hour of discussion, allowing the nominations to move forward.
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