Following a ceremony to swear in the new Killeen City Council on Tuesday, one councilman abstained from voting to appoint a mayor pro tem over accusations of state law violations by the previous council.
Four council members were sworn in during the ceremony presided over by Mayor Jose Segarra at City Hall.
Councilman Jonathan Okray announced the canvassed votes for the May 6 city election, confirming wins for incumbent Shirley Fleming, District 1; Debbie Nash-King, the newcomer and top vote-getter in District 2; incumbent Jim Kilpatrick, District 3; and Steve Harris, District 4.
The official results showed 3,079 of the city’s 70,278 registered voters cast a ballot May 6 — or a 4.38 percent turnout.
After the new members took their seats, a strange sequence of events led to the appointment of Kilpatrick as mayor pro tem, the council’s backup presiding officer.
According to the City Charter, the mayor pro tem is a largely ceremonial position with the responsibility to preside over City Council meetings if the mayor is absent.
Kilpatrick was nominated by Councilman Juan Rivera, while Councilman Gregory Johnson was nominated by Fleming. Both Kilpatrick and Johnson
received three votes from the council, but Okray abstained.
Instead of voting, Okray submitted a statement for the record saying he could not vote to appoint either nominee due to his belief that the previous council had violated the Texas Open Meetings Act’s “walking quorum” rule because members allegedly joined a private Facebook group and discussed city business outside of a public meeting.
On Friday, Killeen Police Department spokeswoman Ofelia Miramontez confirmed Okray submitted a statement to the Killeen Police Department with his complaint in mid-February. The statement was later forwarded to Bell County Attorney Jim Nichols.
Okray said Nichols sent him an email in return suspending a possible investigation because there was no evidence to support Okray’s claims.
The Herald editorial staff has received a forwarded email from Okray for more than 230 straight days with an invitation from former Killeen Mayor Raul Villaronga to join a private Facebook group. Okray has declined to respond to Herald reporters’ questions on other topics since the email chain began.
The Herald has investigated the email and has so far found no evidence of the group’s current existence or any indication council business was conducted on the group’s page.
Okray, however, said in his statement “media” refused to follow the email despite a response from a Herald reporter indicating the matter was being investigated.
“My observation is that the Killeen Daily Herald has opted for narrative rather than an objective paradigm in reporting the news,” he said in an email Nov. 12.
Because of the tie, Segarra voted to appoint Kilpatrick.
At a workshop session following the ceremony, the council discussed the renewal of a citywide youth curfew ordinance.
The council engaged in another long debate about the ordinance along familiar battle lines.
Fleming again supported lowering the curfew to 10 p.m. on all nights of the week with support from Johnson, while other members of the council highlighted the need for better parenting of juveniles.
The council reached a consensus to vote on the ordinance as currently constructed at its regular meeting May 23.
The council also conducted a closed-door, informal performance appraisal of City Manager Ron Olson’s first 100 days in office.
According to Olson’s contract approved Feb. 7, Olson is subject to informal reviews each quarter as well as a formal annual performance review.