By Joyce May
The Cove Herald
It was a chaotic and tense conclusion to what one council member called a disturbing portion of the City Council meeting, but in the end Mayor Roger O’Dwyer will hold on to his seat.
The decision was 4-4, with O’Dwyer casting a vote in his own favor. He is allowed by section 2.07 of the city charter to do so.
Nevertheless, the closure much of the city – including the mayor – hoped for, may be delayed because resident Bill Thomas is now calling for the newly elected council to vote on the issue.
Thomas has retained Killeen attorney Dan Corbin to pursue forcing O’Dwyer to vacate the mayoral office, and said prior to the meeting that he has the paperwork prepared to file a writ of mandamus against O’Dwyer.
“That was a step in the right direction, and I have tremendous confidence that our new City Council will seize the opportunity to do the right thing,” Thomas said. “As a matter of the prudent thing to do, we will in fact give them the opportunity to do so in their first meeting in June.”
Thomas said he will attend that meeting and plans to request to be placed on the agenda to address the council.
Incumbents James Stockman, Place 4 and Ray Gatewood, Place 5, were defeated in Saturday’s election and former council members Charlotte Heinze and Ray Don Clayton will be sworn in to office June 5.
A runoff election between Jenifer Sanders and Mark Peterson must be held to determine the Place 3 position.
Tuesday’s meeting began calmly with the council handling several items of business, but emotions and tempers were sparked when it came to considering whether to declare the office of mayor forfeited and vacant.
A fiery O’Dwyer declined to discuss the matter further in executive session, despite a move by Place 6 Councilman Fred Harris to do so.
Harris said he believed remarks made by Place 2 Councilman Larry Sheppard in Tuesday’s edition of the Killeen Daily Herald could be construed as the group holding an illegal meeting and deciding the vote in advance.
“We did not pledge. Pledging is tantamount to voting and that is illegal,” Harris said after Tuesday’s meeting. “Councilman Sheppard totally misrepresented his position in this city by saying we pledged because pledging is a meeting and we could be charged with a violation of the Open Meetings Act.”
Nevertheless, O’Dwyer declined and drew applause from the audience when he said, “This is my trial, if you will. I would like anything further done about me in open session.”
O’Dwyer handed out copies of five e-mails exchanged between himself and City Manager Steve Alexander regarding the requesting of the controversial “talking points” document.
“The e-mails show I wasn’t using directives or orders ... but I wanted a dialogue,” O’Dwyer said. “I did not give any orders. I did not give any edicts.”
At the end of the mayor’s presentation, Alexander was looked upon to offer a response, but Place 1 Councilman Bob Reeves interceded, saying, “I don’t think Mr. Alexander should comment. We told him recently not to be involved in politics.”
Sheppard persisted and questioned Alexander as to whether he could work with the mayor.
“It is my job to take direction from the council as a group,” Alexander responded.
A heated exchange then flared between Reeves, O’Dwyer and Sheppard when Reeves questioned the mayor as to why County Attorney Brandon Belt said O’Dwyer had violated the charter.
City Attorney Jim Thompson interrupted the exchange, saying it was not the time for discussion but rather for a vote.
Sheppard then proceeded to make a motion in support of the mayor, but was stopped by O’Dwyer.
A suggestion by Place 7 Councilman Frank Somera to table the item was opposed by the mayor and several members of the audience.
“I have lived with an entire seven to eight weeks of being in the press every day. I would like some closure,” O’Dwyer said, adding later, “You don’t understand what has been done to me and my family because of innuendos.”
Gatewood called the entire series of events “disturbing. If we keep a sitting mayor and fighting council, we don’t put this behind us.”
Gatewood voted in favor of the mayor, but the final vote was chaotic and the council was not polled.
City Secretary Jane Lees said she would have to play back the DVD of the meeting to verify the vote.
O’Dwyer said Reeves, Harris, John Gallen and Somera voted to declare the office forfeited and Sheppard, Stockman, Gatewood and he himself voted no.
Contact Joyce May at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428