By Joyce May
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – With the threat of a lawsuit looming for Copperas Cove Mayor Roger O'Dwyer, the City Council this evening will consider whether to fund legal and attorney fees for him if the matter goes to litigation.
Adding to the brewing controversy is a possible misstep by Place 2 Councilman Larry Sheppard in his attempt to support the mayor.
This evening will be the first time the council discusses publicly any aspect of the controversy surrounding O'Dwyer and whether he has forfeited his seat by violating the city charter.
City Secretary Jane Lees said the mayor requested the item be placed on the agenda with the support of two council members – Sheppard and Place 5 Councilman Ray Gatewood – as required by the city charter.
The regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 507 S. Main St.; a workshop will precede the council meeting at 6 p.m.
Copperas Cove resident Bill Thomas has retained Killeen attorney Dan Corbin in an effort to force the mayor to step down and has given O'Dwyer a deadline of this evening's meeting to do so voluntarily.
If the mayor does not comply, that will be considered a refusal and a writ of mandamus will be filed in 52nd District Court, Corbin said. In Latin, mandamus means "we command" and is issued by a superior court to compel a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly.
"The issue is not whether he is a nice guy or not; it is whether has he broken a rule and should he pay for it," Thomas said. "When politicians usurp the authority and power of the people, even if the intention is for the good of the people, we have set a terrible and dangerous precedent. The rule of law must be followed by everybody."
O'Dwyer has said he plans to stand firm in the face of the allegations and does not intend to resign his position.
Last week, Sheppard called for residents who back the mayor to attend the meeting as the council would be considering a resolution in support of O'Dwyer.
Such a resolution will not be considered tonight, but Sheppard said he is still calling for residents to show up in support of O'Dwyer.
Thomas said he will not be speaking this evening on the advice of his attorney, but rather Corbin will be holding a press conference either Wednesday or Thursday to announce how they plan to proceed.
Letters were sent last week to District Attorney David Castillo and Coryell County Attorney Brandon Belt requesting they initiate quo warranto proceedings against the mayor to force him to submit his letter of resignation. Quo warranto, meaning, "by what warrant," is a writ that requires the person to whom it is directed to show what authority he has for exercising some right or power (or "franchise") he claims to hold.
Castillo said because of his close ties to Copperas Cove and longtime affiliations with Thomas and O'Dwyer, he is letting Belt look into the matter to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Belt said he wants to talk with both City Manager Steve Alexander and with O'Dwyer before making a final decision on how to proceed. He met with Alexander on Monday and will meet with O'Dwyer on Thursday.
Belt said he also plans to attend the council meeting this evening.
An executive session to discuss the duties and responsibilities of the Place 2 council member is also on the agenda, but Sheppard said he is going to move that the discussion be held in open session.
"I don't have any secrets," Sheppard said.
The session comes after the councilman made statements at the March 12 City Council retreat which City Attorney Jim Thompson said were out of line for that forum.
Contact Joyce May at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428