By Anthony Scott
Killeen Daily Herald
One woman was ejected after screaming "liar" at Killeen Councilman Larry Cole; the audience howled; one councilman left after he was asked to "cease and desist"; and residents lined up to sign eight recall petitions.
The Killeen Civic and Conference Center was teeming with emotion, as more than 500 residents and members of the Killeen Police Department attended a council town hall meeting Monday night.
Residents' questions generated discussion from the council on former City Manager's Connie Green's buyout and members explained their own positions. Some of the other topics addressed included allegations of racism, how the council gets along and general grievances from people who approached the microphone.
Council members spent much of the talking time explaining their versions of the events leading up to the buyout, including what happened during closed-door discussions.
All of the council members were present for the town hall meeting. Discussion was heated throughout the night with Mayor Tim Hancock leading the meeting.
At one point, after asking Councilman Billy Workman several times to be quiet, Hancock asked him to stop. Workman got up and left early in the meeting.
"It was more or less a defense thing," resident Bruce High said. "They did what they wanted to do. The City Council said what they wanted to say and what they had to say."
Resident Sandra Woods spoke with a contrasting view to many who spoke, noting that the situation wasn't unusual.
"City managers are bought out of their contracts all the time," she said. "It's a common thing."
Woods said she had been reading about the Green buyout and attended the meeting because she wanted to voice her opinion as a professional and a resident.
The meeting was held 33 days after Green was bought out of his contract for a $750,000 settlement agreement where both parties agreed not to pursue litigation.
In a 4-3 vote, council members Ernest Wilkerson, Scott Cosper, JoAnn Purser and Kenny Wells voted for the buyout, which was worth more than what Green's contract stipulated.
The contract called for him to receive two years of pay plus benefits, amounting to about $555,000.
Green, 49, became city manager in 2005 and had just received a raise after a fall evaluation.
His salary went from about $157,000 in September 2010 to about $195,000 by his departure March 29.
Outside the Civic Center's front door, Killeen resident Jonathan Okray was on hand with his petitions to recall every council member and mayor. If successful, it would be the first time in Killeen´s 129-year-old history any council member has been recalled.
Mark Jones, who was helping with the recall, said he went inside to hear some of the speaking and didn't like what he heard.
Hancock said every morning he wakes up with a problem.
"That problem is I awake black," Hancock said during a discussion about racism between council members.
"I'm ashamed of the statement the mayor made," Jones said. "Every morning he has a problem. Every morning he wakes up black.
"It's an insult to our intelligence. ... No, it's not racist. I just feel he made a stupid comment. People want to know why they spent that much money."
Jones also said the meeting didn't stay on topic.
"Right now, they're tap dancing; they're stalling," Jones said. "None of the questions being asked are being answered."
To have a recall election Okray needs to collect 1,050 signatures of registered voters in Killeen for each petition. Voters then would be given the option to recall the council members and mayor on the Nov. 8 election ballot.
Okray and supporters have until May 4 to collect the required signatures for the council and until May 11 to obtain enough to recall the mayor.
As of Monday, Okray had the following number of signatures: Larry Cole, 1,206; Scott Cosper, 1,308; Tim Hancock, 863; JoAnn Purser, 1,301; Juan Rivera, 1,192; Kenny Wells, 1,210; Ernest Wilkerson, 1,309; Billy Workman, 1,132.
Residents can find the petitions available to sign at 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays at the Killeen Community Center, 2201 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd.
Contact Anthony Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.