Killeen city officials are hopeful that the recent firing of Killeen Finance Director Barbara Gonzales will not have an adverse effect on the city’s debt ratings.
Gonzales’ termination comes five months after the finance department was featured in a Wall Street Journal article praising it for raising the Standard & Poor’s and Fitch ratings from AA- to AA, despite the six months Killeen went without a City Council in the wake of last year’s recall election.
High debt ratings allow financial institutions to pay low interest rates on bonds. Gonzales was terminated Wednesday after a two-month internal investigation by the city of Killeen that centered on the city’s Fleet Services Division.
“The city’s financial status is not dependent on one person,” city spokeswoman Hilary Shine said.
“While she did have a role, it’s the city manager’s guidance and the leadership of the (Killeen) City Council and the whole department, which accomplished the goals of the city.”
City Manager Glenn Morrison said he expects no change in the city’s bond rating to result from Gonzales’ dismissal.
“I think that we are in great shape fiscally,” Mayor Dan Corbin said. “I think it will have absolutely no impact on our financial standing.”
Dan Wegmiller, the city’s financial adviser and managing director of Specialized Public Finance Inc., said the city likely will not lose its rating bump.
“Obviously changes happen in an organization, you have a city manager leave and city councils change. This is not something that is going to jump up and change the city’s rating,” Wegmiller said.
“When a rating is that high, they expect that the organization can stay on track and keep its momentum.”
Wegmiller said that the integrity of a city budget is one of the most important issues rating agencies weigh.
With Gonzales’ termination, the city now has two upper-level positions unfilled — the finance director position and assistant city manager of internal services, both of which will oversee the budget.
The assistant city manager of internal services, a new position created by Morrison in October, will oversee the finance department, human resources, information technology and a new support services department.
The assistant city manager of internal services position was posted in November and more than 50 applicants have applied.
The city appointed Martie Gillespie as interim finance director until it can fill the position, though no timetable for beginning a search has been set.
Gillespie, who was hired as an accountant 15 years ago, was promoted to assistant director of finance in 2007.