For the first time in more than five years, an employee grievance has received a ruling from the Killeen Civilian Personnel Hearing Board that was not unanimous.
The case — that of fired city mechanic John Acker — was challenging for the five-member board because it is tied to a complex scandal involving around 25 city employees and two recent lawsuits filed against the city.
On May 9, the board submitted its majority recommendation to reinstate Acker to Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison. Morrison rejected the nonbinding recommendation Wednesday.
The case was complicated by the fact that Acker admitted to participating in the culture of theft, which a two-month police investigation found characterized the city motor pool for more than a decade.
An internal police investigation and audit completed in December uncovered thefts of thousands of dollars of tires and diesel fuel.
At least 22 other Fleet Services Division employees were reported to have participated in the misconduct.
The misconduct led to five city employees losing their jobs, including Fleet Services Director Kim Randall and city Finance Director Barbara Gonzales.
Gonzales and Acker — both terminated Dec. 12 — had their appeals rejected by the city manager after the personnel grievance board recommended their reinstatement. Both also filed lawsuits against the city under the Texas Whistleblower Act.
After Acker’s public hearing, neither board members nor the city have said how individual members voted.
The document submitted to Morrison said, “The Board recommends by a majority vote that the termination decision be reversed based on an assessment that the termination is a disproportionate penalty.”
Board member Valerie Jordan, a retired auditor of 21 years, said the board never told the city manager they were not unanimous.
“If he based his decision on that it was not everybody together, I don’t understand how he would have known we were split,” Jordan said. “Somebody in human resources must have told him.”
Board Chairman Frederick Bee, who has served on the board for five years, said the board ruled in favor of Acker because the city supervisors had not followed proper protocol, including written reprimands.
“The majority of the board again thought that the supervisors were not doing their job,” Bee said. “You don’t just up and fire somebody who has worked for you for 18 years without putting something in writing.”
Board member Brockley Moore, a retired human resources manager, said the case was clearly affected by the ties Acker had to the Gonzales case and the misconduct of many other city employees.
“This is not a challenge that the city has ever faced before, and I hope we don’t have to face something like this again,” Moore said.
Many of the board members have started questioning the purpose of a board, which has had two rulings rejected by Morrison in the past month.
Former Killeen educator Rosa Hereford, who has served on the board for four years, said that during her tenure, she has seen four cases in which the board’s recommendation was overruled by the city manager.
“In most cases it is pretty cut and dry, but this case was complex,” Hereford said. “If the point was that he stole. Well, they all stole.”
Hereford said if Morrison was going to disagree with the board, she wished he would talk to them about it before making his decision.
“We have not been able to talk to the city manager about any of these recommendations for reinstatement, and we probably never will,” Hereford said.
Board member Dirk Davis, who did not attend the Gonzales hearing, declined to comment on the case.
Contact Brandon Janes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552