• July 29, 2014

Local officials react to city manager’s decision

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Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 4:30 am

The termination of Killeen Finance Director Barbara Gonzales has become a politically divisive issue this week, splitting local officials over how far the city manager’s power should reach.

After hearing nearly six hours of testimony from five city employees last week, the Killeen Civilian Personnel Hearing Board recommended Tuesday that Gonzales be reinstated.

Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison announced his much-anticipated rejection of the board’s nonbinding decision Thursday, upholding his December decision to fire Gonzales.

In a public statement, Morrison said his chief reasons for firing Gonzales were that she interfered with a police investigation, violated a city-mandated gag order and lied to investigators.

Board chairman Frederick Bee said the board weighed a separate set of facts in its decision.

At the top of the board’s findings was that neither Morrison, nor any previous city manager, had documented “counseling” or reprimands given to Gonzales before her administrative leave in October.

“We as a committee felt that the city failed to follow proper procedure in that she was never counseled,” Bee said. “By (Morrison’s) own admission, she was a good employee up to that time.”

Board member Rosa Hereford said she was not surprised by Morrison’s rejection but defended the board’s decision and process.

“This was a tough one,” Hereford said. “We looked at what had happened with other divisions and departments over the years and we just thought that this was the most extreme action the city manager had taken, for her to be terminated.”

The panel’s official ruling was that Gonzales’ termination was a “disproportionate penalty” based on her infractions.

Board member Valerie Jordan said she thought the employee grievance process for this case treated the employee unfairly, since Morrison was a witness against Gonzales at her hearing.

“I believe there is a conflict of interest,” Jordan said. “Whenever the city manager is involved, I think that the city council should make the final decision.”

Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin said Thursday that he thought the board was biased and said he supported the city manager’s rejection of its ruling.

“The board’s decision was readily apparent and obvious in the first few minutes of the hearing,” Corbin said. “They are entitled to their opinion and (Morrison) is entitled to his.”

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Lower also disagreed with the board’s ruling.

“I would like to know what they were thinking,” Lower said. “The information in the hearing had nothing to do with the reason that she was fired. (Morrison) did exactly what any executive officer would do.”

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4 comments:

  • Alvin posted at 4:18 pm on Fri, May 3, 2013.

    Alvin Posts: 140

    Rule 1: Management must maintain the infallibility of management.
    Rule 2: See Rule 1.

    I believe the council should be called upon when there is a breakdown in city management. The city manager should not have total authority when it comes down to rules observation. The manager said that he did not find fault with work until that episode. The council is correct in that he did not try to council her before her being fired. If the city manager can overrule the council, then he is acting like someone who cannot be overruled.
    To reiterate;
    Rule 1: management must maintain the infallibility of management.
    Rule 2: See rule 1

     
  • RedHorseRider posted at 11:44 am on Fri, May 3, 2013.

    RedHorseRider Posts: 2

    Not a Killeen resident, but all I can say is wow. No recorded poor performance and no proof of wrongdoing in an investigation and she was still fired? A private company would be cringing at the thought of the lawsuit and the firing manager would be fired themselves, after appropriate documentation. For a senior manager to be fired without a single performance document is incredible given the recent history of Killeen and city employees. Wow. And a non-binding grievance board? Why have a board at all when it can be overrode? I am amazed a city of Killeen's size has problems like this. I forsee a large settlement and more legal problems for Killeen. Isn't the mayor a lawyer? The city council or the people of Killeen need to fix their laws and grievance process.

     
  • Viktor posted at 9:45 am on Fri, May 3, 2013.

    Viktor Posts: 316

    Mayor thinks board was biased? Par for the course coming from someone who advocated for Morrison to get city manager's job. How unbiased/open-minded was Mayor when it was time to bring in a new city manager? City spent money on recruiting firm then still went with an inside man. If Killeen is known as city without limits then why are top positions limited to insiders that tend to go with same old mindset? Mayor says Morrison is entitled to his opinion? Irrelevant as Morrison is paid to perform a job. When he failed to counsel Gonzales then turned around & fired her, he put city at risk for litigation. Effective managers document. They don't fly by the seat of their pants in decisions like firing an employee especially in a workplace that recently had a former city manager get a $750K settlement. Same thing happened with former city manager, Green where proper documentation of work performance didn't exist. Morrison was assistant city manager at the time. His actions in firing Gonzales after Green saga come off as careless as if he learned nothing from those events. Mike Lower disagrees with board decision too & thinks Morrison did what any executive officer would do? Same guy with signs all over town saying elect me when he was appointed to council after last councilman resigned his position? Here's what an executive officer might've tried: firing an employee should be last step in a careful, thoughtful, fair & transparent process which should start well before the actual termination. Firing should occur after a series of performance discussions, plans for corrective action such as a employee growth plan, documented actions of performance & reasonable warnings prior to laying someone off. Killeen should expect more of their city manager, Mayor & Lower than this junk.

     
  • Eliza posted at 9:34 am on Fri, May 3, 2013.

    Eliza Posts: 653

    @ Board member Valerie Jordan said she thought the employee grievance process for this case treated the employee unfairly, since Morrison was a witness against Gonzales at her hearing.
    --------------------

    As a citizen of Killeen, I agree with Ms. Jordan .
    Unfair justice has been done I believe, since City Manager Morrison, was allowed to be Judge and Jury concerning an employee who had never received any sort of reprehend on paper, during her years of employment for the tax payers of the city.

    But several employees of the same city who admitted, they had stolen from the city's tax payers, with these thefts having been going on for years. Received a 'slap on the wrist' with amnesty during which they would be allowed to return any goods they had stolen from the city. The tax payer is ask to believe that all items were returned.
    However, a report in a recent KDH article quoting a city audit report, has shown there are still items unaccounted for.

    I believe a bias has been shown when certain people, are picked out to receive severe punishment such as Ms. Gonzales and the loss of her job, but others who have admitted to a crime, are allowed to continue as usual.

    The board of 4 who were ask to put in their time to make a decision about the firing of Gonzales, wasted their time since their 4 mind sets of what should be done concerning the firing, were overruled by the mind set of 1 the city manager and whoever was guiding him in his decision.
    Which I believe the city's tax payers are aware of who that may be.