While Killeen officials have disagreed about much throughout the proceedings for fired finance director Barbara Gonzales, all parties seem to agree that the city employee appeal process is flawed.
A four-member grievance hearing board recommended Tuesday that Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison reinstate Gonzales, based on its findings during an April 24 hearing.
Morrison promptly rejected the panel’s recommendation and upheld his Dec. 12 termination of Gonzales.
Rosa Hereford, who has been on the grievance hearing board for three years, said that in most of the cases the board has heard, terminating the employee was easily justifiable.
“This is a very unique case,” Hereford said. “We’ve never had a case where the city manager was directly involved in the case.”
Killeen City Council members have been slow to comment, out of concern that their comments may alter the course of the court proceedings involved with the whistleblower lawsuit Gonzales filed against the city in March. Her trial is expected to be heard in early 2014.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Lower said he thought the city should be run as a business and that as CEO, Morrison should have full authority to hire and fire city employees.
The hearing board did not serve its intended purpose for such a high administrator in City Hall, Lower said.
“It is a bad process,” Lower said. “You don’t see that kind of process happen in any kind of organization.”
Councilman Terry Clark said he thought it might be time for the council to intervene in the case.
“This is the city manager’s committee and not the city council’s,” Clark said.
“I believe that the time has come for the city council to intervene, and formally request that the city’s employee grievance process be presented and explained to the city council in the form of a summative report that defines and discloses the process.”
As with many council members who were asked to comment on the case, Clark said he did not have enough information to make a specific statement about potential changes to the current policy.
“The city of Killeen has grown during the past 12 years. I am not sure that the policies and procedures that City Hall follows have continued to keep up with our growth,” Clark said.
The Killeen Civilian Personnel Hearing Board will convene again Tuesday to hear the case of fired Fleet Services mechanic John Acker. Acker also fired a lawsuit against the city under the Texas Whistleblower Act.