By Holly Wise
Killeen Daily Herald
Jonathan Okray gave Killeen residents a megaphone and the message is loud and clear: they want a new City Council.
When reached for comment Friday, some Killeen council members don't understand why, while another credited himself for the monumental recall petition drive and another wants to find out what the will of the residents is.
"I don't feel like I deserve to be recalled," Councilman Larry Cole said. "I'm disappointed that the citizens could not make that distinction."
Okray started his recall petition drive April 6 after the council voted 4-3 on March 29 to buy out former City Manager Connie Green for $750,000.
Cole voted against the buyout.
"I am very saddened that some have lost faith in me and it's my intent to serve the citizens of this great city for as long I am allowed to serve," Mayor Pro Tem Scott Cosper said.
Cosper, along with Councilwoman JoAnn Purser and Councilmen Kenny Wells and Ernest Wilkerson voted in favor of the buyout, which gave Green $200,000 more than his contract stipulated.
The council members will be briefed at Tuesday's council meeting and details about the number of signatures will be given, Killeen's Executive Director of Public Information Hilary Shine said Friday.
Starting Wednesday, the council members have five days to resign or call for a recall election, which would be held in November, the earliest date allowed according to the city charter and state election regulations.
The election ballot would feature six of the seven current council members. Purser lost her bid for re-election to the District 3 seat on May 14.
"I'm not going to resign," Cole said. "We'll see what happens in November."
Cole said he thinks a large portion of the residents' anger will have dissipated by then.
Councilman Billy Workman and Wilkerson agreed that the process is a "citizens' process" and they're glad the residents got involved.
"I'm the one asking the people to do a recall," Workman said. "They didn't know about the process until I told them about it."
Neither would say if they plan to resign.
"I want to find out what the citizens' will is," Wilkerson said.
Council members received the news in their council packets Thursday in the form of a memorandum that indicated the recall petition was successful. The city secretary completed the signature verification process and there were enough to satisfy the 1,050 required signatures for each council member.
"Out of 127,000 in our community, if 1,500 people are mad, they're mad," Purser said.
News of the recall's success began circulating Thursday afternoon after one council member posted the results of the memorandum on Centextalk.com.
Cole has been known to post City Council business on the social site and this bit of news wasn't any different.
"The motivation was to get the word out," he said. "There was no ulterior motive other than to inform the people."
While the council members' petitions were successful, the petition to recall Mayor Timothy Hancock fell short.
When contacted Friday, Hancock said he was not surprised at the outcome.
"I am moving forward and I continue to move forward to fulfill my obligation to the citizens who voted for me to do what I promised I would in accordance to the (city) charter, protocol rules and any other regulatory matters that exist there," he said.
Hancock said he wants to help the city move forward and get past the mistakes that have been made.
"You can't undo what has been done in this particular case," he said. "But we can move forward to rebuild and continue to move forward with the city."
Councilman Juan Rivera and Wells did not return phone calls Friday.
Contact Holly Wise at email@example.com or (254) 501-7555.
Council speaks out
"I'm expecting to be recalled."
"It was expected and we'll just wait and see what happens."
"We have managed to become a group of seven who never talk except on Tuesday evenings."
"I wanted to pay only the contract, what was required by the contract. I pushed for about a month as much as I could push to get an investigation into the allegations that caused Mr. Green to resign."
"I believe there's not another city more open and transparent then the city of Killeen."
"Killeen has proven time and time again that we are one of the best cities in the nation in diversity, quality of life, job growth and affordability."
"It is my hope that I will have the opportunity to regain the trust of all the citizens of Killeen."
"There's 125,000 that haven't said a word. The silent supporters are greater in number then the 1,500 that are complaining."
"With all the stressors around throughout our nation, everybody was already angry federally and they took it out locally."
"Any other time in years past, you wouldn't see such a strong response."
"Yes, we did what we thought was right and fair and what was needed to protect the city of Killeen."
"I'm glad the citizens spoke and got involved."
"I told them to do a recall on everybody, including myself."
"I pray that we have learned our lesson."
"We cannot continue to dwell on our misstep or our mishap, whatever you want to call it. We have to recover from that and move forward. That is my intention and that is what I'm trying to get done."
Juan Rivera and Kenny Wells did not return calls Friday.