By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
The ongoing feud within the Killeen City Council is a tale of two committees – two committees that haven't met since February.
The committees – land use and smoking – have not been a recent topic on any workshop agenda or council meeting. Yet, committee membership has been the catalyst for a fight inside the council chambers. The battle spilled over into the Killeen Daily Herald's letter to the editor section and council members' e-mails.
Last Tuesday's meeting took the disagreement to a new level, adding angry voices, wags of the finger and charges of bias and a lack of integrity by council members.
Tuesday's 4 p.m. workshop is scheduled to be the finale of the three-part series.
How it began
Councilman Larry Cole on land use and Councilman Billy Workman on smoking, both chairs of their respective committees, were not reappointed by Mayor Tim Hancock when he announced assignments June 9.
Since the land use committee voted 4-1 to dissolve itself Feb. 25 pending council approval, and the smoking committee crafted the smoking ban eventually approved by the council, neither committee had been included in the workshop agenda until Hancock announced the appointments.
After discussion, the council approved most of the committee appointments, but tabled the appointments to the smoking and land use committees.
A letter from Cole published in last Sunday's edition of the Daily Herald prompted Mayor Tim Hancock to read a two-page open letter in Tuesday's meeting defending his appointments.
Instead of Cole, new council members JoAnn Purser and Ernest Wilkerson were nominated to replace former Councilman Otis Evans and Cole on the land use committee.
Cole had been upfront about his desire to see the land use committee dissolved, and the mayor believes it should not be dissolved. Thus, Hancock said he doesn't see Cole as a viable member and chose to replace him.
The council has never openly talked about whether the land use committee should be dissolved.
Hancock's letter makes only a brief mention of Wilkerson's appointment, noting that he helped establish the land use committee when he was on the council five years ago.
The last half of the letter defends his appointment of Purser.
After noting Purser's life history in Killeen, including her professional role alongside the developers of the Purser family, Hancock concludes that the future prosperity of the city is her priority.
He also states that he doesn't understand the dislike of people in the "development community."
Hancock attempts to separate Purser's occupation and her role on the city council.
"I am rather disappointed in the lack of tolerance and vision sometimes displayed by our citizens," the letter states. "Mrs. Purser is not by profession a developer. Mrs. Purser builds and manages real estate."
Hancock wasn't the only one defending Purser.
Councilman Juan Rivera said, "I hope the city council members don't see Ms. Purser as a developer. She is a city council lady. I'm not speaking on her behalf. I just get tired of listening and hearing Ms. Purser described as a development person. She is a city council lady, and she should be given respect."
Purser said nothing about committees during the council meeting Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Purser said she never requested to be on the committee. But she also said it's not a conflict of interest.
"I feel I'm an ethical business person in the community," she said. "I feel I have experience in listening to land issues and usage of land. If I find that it is becoming a conflict, I'll be the first one to tell the mayor that I need to be removed from the committee."
Workman vs. Hancock
Workman said the mayor's treatment of Cole was unfair, but nothing new. Workman said that he was left out of important committees two years ago and again this year. "I feel that I have not been afforded the chance to be on the committees that I want."
Hancock then questioned Workman.
"You're the chairman of two committees, solid waste and smoking. Are they not up to your standards, or what?" the mayor asked.
Workman said he has not been properly considered for certain committee openings when they've become available during his last four years.
"They are up to my standard … but I've seen new council members come in and go straight to the top," Workman said. "I haven't been on them. I've been pigeonholed since I've been here. … But you're the mayor. And until I become mayor, I'll go along with what you and the council say."
Rivera addressed Workman straight across the table, pointing his finger.
"When the president of a committee doesn't show up to his own committee, and he comes late at his own workshop, and tells me that he doesn't have to be in committee to take a vote, that really upsets me," Rivera said. "You use the dais for your stage performance. You say that you don't need to be in committee because you're not a junior member? I've missed two animal (advisory) meetings in two years because I was in the emergency room. I never missed a workshop, a city council meeting. And you want to tell me you are senior?"
Workman disputed what Rivera said.
"I never told you I use the dais as a stage. That's a lie," he said. "I don't like the accusation. What I'm saying is that up there, the vote counts."
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568.