Administrator, council conflicts boil to surface at meeting

LeAnda Staebner
Glen Rose Reporter

Conflicts between Glen Rose City Council members and City Administrator Michael Leamons came to a head at Tuesday's regular meeting, which lasted more than six hours.

Discussion that normally would have taken place in closed chambers, due to it being a personnel matter, took place in open session at Leamons' request.

The lengthy discussion culminated with the decision to have the mayor work on a performance improvement plan for Leamons, meet with him monthly to gauge progress and have the full council do a written employee evaluation in September, when the administrator's employment anniversary date approaches.

After a brief executive session to discuss the personnel issue per the agenda item, Leamons presented an opening statement.

Glen Rose City Administrator Michael Leamons

He said it appeared to him that the council preferred to run the city on its own and if it no longer needed his services as the city administrator, he would be open to the city buying out his contract, which is set to expire on Sept. 8, 2023.

Following his statement, Councilwoman Kelly Harris shared her experiences and concerns with the rest of the council.

Harris said she has been approached by several city employees and has herself experienced Leamons' behavior at times as "intimidation and bullying" of both employees and city council members, noting it has led to workplace morale issues.

Harris

"I don't have confidence in his ability to handle employee matters," Harris said.

She also expressed concern about what she called an inability to get questions answered in a timely manner and lack of communication between Leamons and council members.

"They (city administrators) are required to work with the city council," she said.

Harris said Leamons has not had a formal employee evaluation in his five years as the city manager, but should have one done annually just like other city employees.

Leamons later noted that he did have one verbal evaluation done by a previous seated council that did not include an evaluation in writing, but did vote to extend his contract. 

Harris asked that Leamons have an open-door policy for council members and employees to get questions answered; and help improve morale among the city's staff.

Several members of the public as well as Somervell County officials then spoke both in Leamons' favor and also raised concerns about his job performance based on their personal experiences.

Former Mayor Pam Miller addressed the council saying she never had problems with the Leamons adding, "he has done a good job."

She noted that he is doing the job duties outlined in his contract and when she was the city's top elected official, she and Leamons communicated daily and worked together well.

Stating that he "really didn't want to bring this out in public," City Councilman Chip Joslin expressed his concerns about and related his experiences with Leamons.

The councilman stated that he has received "condescending responses to emails and questions," and that Leamons is consistently late at distributing meeting information to council members for them to have adequate time to review.

Chip Joslin

Joslin said he has also been spoken to by individuals who fear "retaliation" from Leamons and noted he has also aware of employee morale issues.

The councilmen alleged he once overheard Leamons comment that "If they don't like working for the city of Glen Rose they can just go work somewhere else."

Joslin said he has also had some difficulty in his communication with the administrator and in getting questions answered.

"Not talking to council members is highly unprofessional and highly unacceptable," Joslin said.

Councilwoman Demetra Conrad said that, unlike Joslin and Harris, she has not had any difficulties with Leamons and has gotten answers when presenting him with questions.

"I haven't had the same experiences, but when you hear the same thing over and over, you have to believe (there may be something to it)," she said.

Conrad noted that she is new to the council, which could have some bearing on her experiences.

"I haven't p----- a lot of people off yet. I have that luxury," Conrad said.

According to previous reports in the Reporter, Joslin was employed by the city of Glen Rose but was terminated for allegedly "acting inappropriately and unethically" during The US National Open Chili Championship held in Glen Rose in February 2020.

Harris, who worked for the city of Glen Rose for eight years, retired on June 26, 2019, as the Glen Rose Convention and Visitors Bureau director, according to previous reports. Harris began working for the city as manager of Oakdale Park, and was the CVB director for about 3 1/2 years.

Conrad noted that the main issues seem to be trust and communication — or lack thereof.

"Nobody here trusts each other," she said.

"Communication is a symptom of lack of trust," said Mayor Julia Douglas, adding that communication seems to be the root of a majority of the issues presented.

Following comments from the council and public, Leamons again addressed the council and some of the allegations and concerns presented.

"Some of the things that have been thrown at me tonight ... this is the first I have heard of them," Leamons said, noting that in his five years as city administrator he has never received a verbal or written warning concerning his job performance.

He noted that he is aware that the mayor is his day-to-day supervisor and tries to communicate frequently, and also acknowledged the strained relationship with Joslin and Harris.

"(There was) a rough start with the two of you," Leamons said. "I apologize for the difficulties."