The Glen Rose City Council voted to accept the resignation of City Secretary Terri Johnson during a special session Monday evening.
The council members voted by a 4-1 margin to accept Johnson’s resignation letter, which was turned in on Friday, Oct. 19, effective as of 4 p.m. that day.
Johnson’s departure marks the fourth major shift in the city’s organizational structure dating back to May. That’s when Chester Nolen’s contract as city administrator was terminated by mutual agreement with the City Council.
In September, Linda James resigned from her place on the City Council.
A month later, on Tuesday, Oct. 16, Mayor Sue Oldenburg also submitted a letter of resignation to Leamons. Oldenburg stated that her resignation would be effective on Oct. 31, 2018.
Council member Robert Marquez brought the motion to accept Johnson’s resignation. It was seconded by Mayor Pro-Tem Dennis Moore.
“Tonight’s special meeting was just another step in the right direction, to meet the citizens’ needs,” stated Chris Bryant, who was elected to the City Council along with Julia Douglas in May. “The citizens chose to restructure the City Council in the May election.”
Bryant and Julia Douglas won spots on the at-large Council in the May election, along with incumbent Robert Marquez. They joined Dennis Moore and first-term member Linda James on the five-member Council.
Bryant said the agenda item had originally called for a vote of no-confidence concerning Johnson in her position as city secretary. That wording had to be changed, of course, after she gave her resignation to City Administrator Michael Leamons.
Marquez, Moore, Douglas and Johnny Martin — who was appointed to replace James — voted to accept Johnson’s resignation.
Bryant told the Glen Rose Reporter after Monday’s meeting that he had wanted to have the City Council vote on the no-confidence question, and that’s why he voted not to accept Johnson’s resignation.
“The original agenda item was to review Ms. Johnson’s competence and unprofessional conduct toward city employees and Council members,” Bryant said.
The Council then voted to approve two people already working for the city —Code Enforcement Assistant Stephanie Ritchie and Municipal Court Clerk Rosario Sosol — to also share the duties of city secretary on an interim basis. The Council also voted to pay them an additional $2 per hour, plus overtime pay when required.
The newspaper reached Johnson by phone on Wednesday to give her an opportunity to respond to Bryant’s statement, but she declined.
Johnson did indicate that her record should speak for itself — including 40 years serving in municipal government, with the last 30 in either city secretary or city manager positions.
Johnson, a registered municipal clerk and certified public manager, said she’s a past president of the Texas Municipal Clerks Association and served on the board of directors for 15 years. She said she was voted Texas Municipal Clerk of the Year in 2007, and has written chapters in the Texas Municipal Clerks handbook.
Oldenburg’s letter of resignation stated, in part, “My decision to resign is based on many incidents of hostility and lack of respect for me and the office of Mayor from some members of the current council.”
The letter submitted by James, which was obtained by the newspaper via an information request to the city, stated, in part, “The politics of it all, including inflated egos, and intimidating, threatening behavior are not conducive to innovation and productivity, and a strong, positive outlook for the City I love so much.”
NOLEN REPORT IS IN
The Council voted to hire an attorney to look into the circumstances behind Nolen’s departure and severance deal, and that was discussed during an executive session Monday night, closed to the public and news media.
“We did accept the attorney’s investigation findings,” Bryant told the newspaper. “My hope’s that it would be available to the public.”
The Glen Rose Reporter submitted an information request to the city on Wednesday to receive a copy of the report, but it was not available as of press time.
A city official said they were “making a determination of when it can be released” because it could contain confidential information protected under attorney-client privilege laws.
Nolen had been criticized by Bryant and others on the social media site Facebook for city’s five-year contract with Knox Waste Services to provide solid waste disposal for the city. It was approved by vote of the City Council at that time, by a 3-1 vote.
The newspaper reported just over one year ago, in its Oct. 20, 2107 edition, that Bryant confirmed that the owner of one of the waste disposal companies that had sought to land the contract with the city of Glen Rose had been owned by his brother-in-law, Kopperl resident Mike Dunlap. Bryant also told the newspaper that he felt that he would have opposed the proposal made by Knox regardless of that fact.
At that time, Bryant also questioned the procedures used to make the decision to choose Knox as the solid waste disposal provider.
After Nolen reached an agreement with the City Council on a severance package, he told the newspaper that he asked to be released from his contract because of “just constant what I feel to be a hostile work environment and social media degradation.”
The City Council’s decision (by 3-1 vote) to give Nolen a severance deal that included six month’s salary. He had signed a one-year contract extension for $93,600 in February 2017.
That was also followed by some public criticism, questioning the size of the severance package.
Oakdale Park Manager Michael Leamons was named by the Council first as interim city administrator and later was voted into the position, with the interim tag being dropped. He also remains manager of Oakdale Park.
Just after the Council reconvened following the executive session Monday, Marquez said of the report, “This report covers a lot of stuff. It’s very valid.”
Although Oldenburg told the Reporter that she has sold her house and plans to move to another city, she said she is sorry to see Johnson go.
“She has done a lot for the city,” Oldenburg said. “She has been a great advocate. She worked very hard to get the city in order.
“She’s done a great job. I wish her nothing but the best. We’re losing a great asset.”
The City Council likely won’t vote on the acceptance of Oldenburg’s resignation until the Oct. 31 date or later. At that point, the Council can then vote on a replacement to fill the mayor position.
WASTE WATER PLANT
Also during Monday’s meeting, a change order for the ongoing construction of a new waste water treatment plant for the city was approved with a unanimous vote.
The change order calls for an additional $65,620.95 for additional items needed. The project manager told the Council that the changes could delay completion of the plant by an additional 155 days.
In November 2016, the City Council approved a bid from Purcell Contracting, Ltd., of Meridian, which cleared the way for construction to begin on the new plant, on Texas Drive.