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Killeen mayor wants council to reflect on actions

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Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 12:00 pm

By Holly Wise

Killeen Daily Herald

A day after Killeen's former City Manager Connie Green recounted the events leading up to his departure from the city, Killeen Mayor Timothy Hancock told the Killeen Daily Herald the council moved in haste to get rid of Green, and it needs to take time for self-reflection.

"The City Council needs some healing in our own selves," he said Wednesday. "We need to take a look at ourselves and see how we got ourselves into this."

Hancock views himself as an encourager among city ranks, and wants to help the city move past the tumultuous events surrounding Green's $750,000 buyout.

"The population cannot grasp why it was $750,000 and why it was agreed on so quick," he said.

In a role he deems ceremonial, Killeen's mayor said he cautioned the council to slow down after two closed-door meetings in which Green's departure was discussed.

Hancock said the city attorney gave the council two options to buy Green out - the $750,000 or Green's severance package, which would have totaled about $550,000.

"(Councilman Juan) Rivera picked up the severance package and said, 'why don't we consider this?'" Hancock recounted.

No one answered Rivera's question.

"It was clear that the majority were going with the $750,000 package to get rid of him," Hancock said.

Hancock's recollection of the events leading up to the council's decision to pay Green $750,000 is different from Green's.

Hancock said Green approached him prior to the first closed-door meeting on March 15 to request an evaluation.

"'I want to have an evaluation and I want to talk to the council. I want out, I want to leave,'" is what Green told Hancock, Hancock said.

Hancock said Councilman Larry Cole was pressing for an external investigation into a sexual harassment settlement between former Finance Director Rana Lacer and the city involving Green in 2008.

Under the advice of the city attorney, the Texas Municipal League and the city's insurance company, the council in 2008 voted to approve the settlement instead of enduring an expensive trial.

The mayor noted the city had a strong case, but said, "This was the best solution as far as money was concerned. It was a business decision."

Though the case was settled, and Green staunchly denies the allegations, Cole continued to ask for an investigation.

"When it surfaced back to Connie, it became too much for him. The council kept bringing it back up," Hancock said.

In the March 15 executive session, Hancock said Green read a statement and told the council, "I no longer can work with you."

Green brought to the council's attention the possibility that members violated the Open Meetings Act by having walking quorums, and threatened litigation, Hancock said.

"From that point forward, it was decided he had to go," Hancock said. "He couldn't come back to work."

When it came time to vote for the buyout, Hancock said Mayor Pro Tem Scott Cosper, and council members JoAnn Purser and Kenny Wells were sure votes, while Councilman Ernest Wilkerson argued back and forth with Rivera.

"To be honest with you, all Mr. (Billy) Workman did is sit there and roll his eyes and make faces. He did not make any comments except he wasn't going to support it," Hancock said. "Wilkerson held out to the very end and finally said, 'yes, I'll go along with it.'"

The council approved the $750,000 buyout on a 4-3 vote with Cosper, Purser, Wells and Wilkerson voting in favor.

If he had a vote, Hancock said he would have supported the option of paying Green what his contract stipulated.

"I would have had to say I'm going with the severance package because that's all we have and he agreed to it," he said. "How can I, as the mayor of this city, not do anything but follow what's already in stone?"

Hancock said his mistake in the process was not pushing the severance package.

"I wish I had insisted more vigorously that we follow the severance package," he said. "I think it would have at least been fair to all concerned."

As city manager, Green had a mixed public image, Hancock said. Hancock said he knew professionals who didn't think Green was a good city manager, while those in the working class said he was doing fine.

Hancock said Green received rumors there were some business leaders who wanted to get Green out of City Hall, but Hancock would not confirm if the leaders were part of the Committee of 12.

Green alleged Tuesday that leaders within the new C12 did not approve of him as city manager because he was not a "good ol' boy."

"The mayor informed me who was leading (the new C12) and what they wanted, and those are the ones that have been beating on him forever to get rid of me as the city manager," Green said Tuesday in an interview with the Herald. "I believe it is that group that convinced those council members - those four that voted for (the buyout) - to do what they did."

Hancock said Wednesday he was "not aware" of who is involved in the new C12, but that another group, besides the old C12, does exist.

Hancock said he thinks last week's historic town hall meeting was effective because residents had an opportunity to say what they wanted to say to the council.

Despite five hours of rhetoric at the town hall, Hancock is still calling for honesty.

"Council members should truly come up and tell the truth," he said.

Hancock said he wants to hold a retreat for council members out of the public's eye because "we need all of us to put our cards on the table, myself included," he said.

Contact Holly Wise at hwise@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7555.

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