During an open hearing of the Killeen employee review board Wednesday, former Killeen finance director Barbara Gonzales revealed a history of malfeasance in the city government, most of which had never been public before.
The testimony revealed more than eight thefts that spanned six city departments and indicated tens of thousands of dollars stolen from Killeen during the last five years.
Gonzales’ attorney, Laura Diamond, used the laundry list of misconduct to make her case that the city had treated the finance director unfairly when terminating her in December.
Diamond said in all of the other cases no department heads were fired.
The hearing also revealed that City Manager Glenn Morrison’s main reason for firing Gonzales was over the widespread theft discovered last year at the city’s motor pool, which was under Gonzales’ purview.
An internal audit of the Fleet Services Division revealed 2,730 gallons of diesel fuel and 48 tires missing from the city inventory. The fuel was valued at $7,819.
Gonzales was fired after two months on paid administrative leave. Three fleet services employees also lost their jobs over the scandal, but no city employees received criminal charges.
In other instances of city theft, however, several employees were issued criminal charges.
“As an organization, we take reports of employee wrongdoing, both by action and inaction, very seriously,” said Hilary Shine, city spokeswoman.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that city resources, which are entrusted to us by citizens of Killeen, are managed properly and to take corrective action when they are not.”
Among the crimes the city confirmed Friday was that of former city finance-accounting employee Lisa Hill, who was convicted of stealing $20,673 from the city in October 2008, Shine said. It was one example Gonzales brought up during her hearing.
In that case, an audit and police investigation was performed, which resulted in Hill’s termination and prosecution for a third-degree felony.
In October 2008, a police investigation of the Killeen Municipal Court also identified an employee theft of $8,000, Shine said. The employee was terminated and prosecuted.
In 2010, a missing money bag containing $1,200 was reportedly stolen from the Celebrate Killeen Festival.
The city performed an investigation and audit of the robbery, which was not linked to any city employee, Shine said.
A July 2011 internal audit of the Permits Division of the Planning and Development Department, revealed an employee had been misappropriating funds through the city’s permit counter. That employee resigned, Shine said.
Gonzales’ testimony also indicated that in 2012, a safe and lawnmower were stolen from the Parks and Recreation Department.
Shine said an investigation of the theft of the safe — containing an unknown amount of money — was performed, however, an inventory review found no truth to the claim of the missing lawnmower.
In March, Killeen police charged Cynthia Crawford, a former city information technology employee, for stealing $18,450 from a local nonprofit, SunGard Users Group Association.
Prior to that, however, Crawford had received a one-week suspension for not following proper procedure for input of time on her timesheet, Shine said.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Gonzales’ lawyer said the former finance director was treated “disproportionately from other city executives in similar situations.”
While thefts have been going on within the city for some time, other department heads have not been fired, Diamond said.
To curb theft within the city, Gonzales said she was trying to create a new “fraud” policy last August before she was fired, however, other high-ranking city officials were disinclined to hear her ideas.
“For some reason, I was always left out of that loop,” Gonzales said. Gonzales also alleged she was “set up,” but didn’t give specifics.
The review board will make a recommendation to Morrison about whether Gonzales was treated unfairly when fired. Members said Friday that they reached a decision, however, the city has not disclosed their findings. Morrison will have 30 days to decide whether to reinstate Gonzales.
Her firing also led to a lawsuit filed against the city under the Texas Whistleblower Act in March. The case is currently set to go before Bell County District Court early next year.
Contact Brandon Janes at email@example.com or (254) 501-7552