• September 16, 2014

Fired director, city play blame game

Four-person board must decide whether Barbara Gonzales was terminated unfairly

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Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 11:25 am, Thu May 8, 2014.

After hearing nearly six hours of testimony Wednesday, a four-member panel has five days to decide whether former Killeen finance director Barbara Gonzales was treated unfairly when she was fired in December.

The Killeen Personnel Hearing Board’s nonbinding decision is not likely to change the mind of City Manager Glenn Morrison, who fired Gonzales on Dec. 12. However, a recommendation for reinstatement could provide legal support for her lawsuit against the city filed under the Texas Whistleblower Act in March.

Gonzales is seeking between $200,000 and $1 million in damages or reinstatement in the lawsuit, which is expected to be tried in Bell County District Court early next year.

Although Gonzales admitted to lying to investigators and breaking the city’s gag order, city attorneys struggled Wednesday to establish her role in the widespread theft at the city’s fleet services division, which led to her termination.

Personnel board members — Rosa Hereford, Valerie Jordan, Brockley Moore and Chairman Fredrick Bee — have five business days to recommend a reversal of the termination to Morrison.

Morrison will have 30 days to decide whether to reverse his decision to fire Gonzales, who was terminated after a two-month police investigation and internal audit, which revealed gross mismanagement of fleet services.

City Auditor Amanda Wallace said the audit of fleet services — the city’s motor pool — identified various items missing from inventory, including 48 tires, vehicle parts, engines, tools and 2,730 gallons of diesel fuel valued at $7,819.

Wallace also said 23 “disposed” city vehicles were unaccounted for, and it’s unclear where the vehicles went.

Three fleet services employees lost their jobs in the wake of the scandal, which was investigated by Killeen police beginning in September.

Establish rationale

During Wednesday’s appeal hearing, the board tried to establish why Morrison chose to fire Gonzales, who was not accused of theft.

For two years, Gonzales was the direct supervisor of the fleet services director, Kim Randall, who resigned after the investigation.

When questioned during Wednesday’s hearing, Morrison said Gonzales disobeyed instructions, interfered with the police investigation and showed a “lack of oversight and direction in her department.”

The police report said Gonzales knowingly disobeyed Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin’s orders to stay away from the fleet services barn and to refrain from speaking to any city employees other than police investigators during the investigation.

On one occasion, Gonzales called the police investigator from a fleet services phone, according to police.

Assistant City Attorney Jerris Mapes played recordings of several voicemails Gonzales left on a city finance employee’s cellphone, trying to persuade him to speak with her after the investigation began.

“They can’t tap your phones because that’s illegal,” Gonzales said in the recording. “We’re setting precedence with this. It’s a bunch of nonsense.”

Gonzales said she disobeyed the police orders because she “wanted to be with her people.”

The city’s case lacked documentation that Gonzales’ misconduct began before she was placed on administrative leave in October.

Her personnel file, which spans her 14 years with the city, contains virtually no written complaints from Morrison or other supervisors.

Morrison testified her “attendance was atrocious,” but could not present documentation of reprimands before October, although he said he had counseled her many times verbally over her performance.

“If they were important to you, you would get down and get supporting documentation,” Jordan said.

Proportionate penalty

According to the Killeen Employee Policies and Rules, the personnel board may recommend reversal only if the employee is discriminated against for race, age or gender or given a “disproportionate penalty based on the infraction.”

As part of her testimony, Gonzales’ counsel presented eight examples of recent malfeasance in city departments, in which the department heads were not fired.

Gonzales is the first department head to be fired, according to the city.

Among the cases presented by Gonzales’ lawyer were thefts of a safe and a money bag containing $1,200 from the Parks and Recreation Department.

What seemed to set Gonzales’ case apart from other examples of city mismanagement were her actions after the police chief placed her on administrative leave.

The city suggested she interfered with the investigation, but Lt. Jeff Donohue, who lead the probe, testified Gonzales’ visits did not change the outcome of his investigation.

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9 comments:

  • Eliza posted at 12:01 pm on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    Eliza Posts: 755

    @ Her personnel file, which spans her 14 years with the city, contains virtually no written complaints from Morrison or other supervisors.
    --------------


    I think what happened, when Ms Gonzales copied the C. of Police's name onto an e-mail message to the city manager, that was when Morrison decided to get rid of her .
    But she couldn't have been too much of a problem if she had no written documentation in her employee file.
    I believe Morrison didn't make the decision by himself to be rid of Ms Gonzales ,but will have to take full blame and may be thrown under the bus, since his name is the only one on the official firing notice.

    I think Ms. Gonzales did the citizens a favor by letting them know about all the thief's at the city garage.
    The tax payer has lost a lot of money all around, with the law suits already paid out, Missing money bags, dinners being bought that cost thousands of dollars, tickets bought for family members to travel, and to find out the peoples patrol cars were being striped for personal use,
    No wonder there were not that many patrol cars on the streets, there probably were many that didn't have all working parts.

     
  • truebluebell posted at 11:57 pm on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    truebluebell Posts: 17

    Let's be honest here, the city manager does not plan on un-firing Ms. Gonzales regardless of the recommendations of this committee. The city manager wants her fired, so I don't even know why the city attempts to convince the citizens that they are fair and open. It is a waste of the time of the good people of the committee.

     
  • Max67 posted at 9:30 pm on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    Max67 Posts: 63

    The purpose of this hearing was to address the disproportionate treatment of long-term city employee, Barbara Gonzales, who was fired w/o a shred of supporting documentation. Having no documentation, the city tried to use the same disgraceful and pathetic tactic of tryIng to taint her by talking about events that a) they have admitted they (not for lack of trying) were completely unable to tie to her and b) didn't even happen as they claim they did.

    Ms. Gonzales stated from the beginning the allegations that were being made (as well as the findings) were incorrect and not supported by the documentation.

    The city auditor who conducted the audit/investigation lacked any independence, contrary to IIA and GAO standards. She reported directly to City Mgr. Morrison - for whom she conducted the audit - and for whom audits that would have had a negative effect were discontinued at his request).

    Ms. Wallace also lacked any expertise in the area she was suddenly auditing/investigating. An important aspect of auditing is first becoming knowledgeable of the subject you are about to audit. It was later shown that much of Ms. Wallace's findings were incorrect and disproven by those with subject matter expertise. I believe Ms. Gonzales was keenly aware of Ms. Wallace's short-comings in this field and wanted to be sure she knew the facts from those who had the expertise.

    Speaking of interference, the gag order they placed on Ms. Gonzales, preventing her from communicating with any of her staff was unfounded and issued for the benefit of Glenn.

    Wouldn't interference be what Glenn did when he refused to allow audits/investigations of fraud, waste, and abuse complaints over areas for which he was responsible at the time of the complaint? Seriously, Ms. Gonzales communicated w/
    some of her staff? She also put in so much overtime working late night after night - that she lost over 1358 hours in overtime. I think history has shown us what kinds of things Glenn was focusing on during his time in and out of the office.

     
  • concerncitizen posted at 9:25 pm on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    concerncitizen Posts: 3

    I've posted several times because i get angry when i think about the hearing. Being retired, i decided to attend this hearing. The hearing members were very knowlegable about personnel procedures. Apparently, they had no facts/documentation before the hearing. They tried to get facts about the firing but no city official provided a logical answer not supporting documents.

    I think Killeen have a group of corrupt city officials. The mayor should be ashame of this administration. Employees have rights and the city is violating these rights.

    I am proud of the hearing board for standing up to these corrupt officials

     
  • Baylor posted at 9:09 pm on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    Baylor Posts: 143

    Starting to sound like all the cities in South Texas.

     
  • Max67 posted at 8:58 pm on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    Max67 Posts: 63

    Is the only thing they can drag up the fact that she chose to find out the facts for herself about events that were being reported about people much further down the line in divisions for which she was ultimately responsible? If she hadn't tried to follow-up, they would have accused her of being disengaged or a poor manager.

    Is it a surprise that Glenn, who has been shown to expect to break the rules/laws, was unhappy w/ Ms. Gonzales in ways that he COULD NOT document?

    The reason he didn't document the issues he had - and instead chose to verbally reprimand her behind closed doors (as even Ms. Gonzales has stated) is because the reprimands were for Ms. Gonzales refusing to give in on Glenn's demands for her to allow him to break the rules w/o requiring him to continually override her to do so. She was the Finance Director who followed rules and took very seriously the responsibility of protecting taxpayer funds. However, she stood in his way - until he was allowed to just fire her for disagreeing w/ him and his inappropriate and illegal actions.

    Is it also a surprise that Glenn, who again has no documentation to support his claims, states Barbara was always on the opposite side of the issues? Could it be that those were the individuals for whom he repeatedly wanted her to break the rules, which included himself? The reason there was no documentation is because

    Ms. Gonzales would have contested any such reprimands for requiring him to follow the laws and that would have further exposed him and the individuals for whom he repeatedly broke the laws.

     
  • concerncitizen posted at 5:38 pm on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    concerncitizen Posts: 3

    the citizens of Killeen should be aware of what came out of this hearing. things the mayor and managers don't want you to know. not following written personnel policies, stealing from all employees, corrupt city manager, external auditors being paid for not doing nothing for the city, internal auditors not conducting annual audit, inventories not conducted. The list is so long. The mayor made it sound like the board members were ignorant but the were very knowlegeable. They went after the city manager and he couldn't respond!!!. I'm glad I witness this great performance by the hearing board.

     
  • eyesofkilleen posted at 11:26 am on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    eyesofkilleen Posts: 3

    Good article. The city staff should learn to follow their own rules. they make them and then break them. This meeting started off with a good example of the chairman trying to follow the rules but was overturned. Job performance should be done in a timely fashion and documented. Job counseling should be done in a timely fashion and followed. This should be the basis for any other actions. The military knows this well. Inventories were hardly ever done, supervising was poor. These thefts could have been taken care of years ago.

     
  • Viktor posted at 10:38 am on Thu, Apr 25, 2013.

    Viktor Posts: 316

    Rerun! We already saw this drama with the EMS billing disputes in the city under the last city manager before Glenn. There was a individual on council that went around & wanted to chit chat with city employees about concerns on the EMS billing issues. Then it was he said, she said. Former city manager, Green got a $750K parting gift & last council was recalled. There was no documentation supporting Green's decline in performance. In fact he received pay raises prior to his sudden departure. Sounds like city didn't learn a thing. After a $750K fiasco at least start keeping written documentation of job performance so you can have support to fire an employee. Glenn gave this finance director verbal reprimands? Seriously?