By Joshua Winata
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – The City Council has called a special meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the City Hall Council Chambers to vote on declaring the office of Mayor Roger O'Dwyer forfeit and vacant.
City Attorney James Thompson originally recommended that the item be addressed during the regular council meeting that same evening. However, four council members – Mark Peterson, Charlotte Heinze, Ray Don Clayton and Fred Harris – requested the vote be taken at an earlier meeting called in accordance with city charter requirements.
Peterson said the new time was proposed by the council members because they "didn't want to take away from the regularly scheduled meeting," which will still be at the usual time of 7 p.m. Tuesday.
In addition, Peterson said two council members – Heinze and Mayor Pro Tem Robert Reeves – are unable to attend the evening meeting because of schedule conflicts. Reeves, who will be attending a children's fundraiser in Houston later that same day, is the proponent of the action item to declare the office of the mayor forfeit.
"We thought all council members should be there to vote. All seven council members will be there," Peterson said. "I think that's a pretty important reason to reschedule."
According to the city charter, an affirmative vote of five council members is required to declare an office vacant; the mayor will be excluded from participating in the decision as agreed upon by the majority of the council during a public session on Feb. 19.
If both the mayor and mayor pro tempore are not present at the regular meeting, the council will elect a chairperson to conduct the meeting, according to the city charter.
The vote will be based on the findings of the March 12 administrative hearing, at which the City Council charged O'Dwyer with five specific counts of charter violation. That hearing was also rescheduled from a regular council agenda to a special morning meeting amid allegations from the mayor's supporters, including Councilman Larry Sheppard, that the move was designed to thwart the public from attending.
However, City Manager Andrea Gardner said the item was moved to a separate meeting to prevent disruption of regular city business and because the hearing might run long, which it did; it lasted almost 11 hours.
Peterson and other council members said they do not expect the upcoming meeting to be anywhere near as lengthy because there is no public hearing portion of the meeting.
"They elect us to do the business as we see fit," Harris said. "I don think we can plan on how long anything's going to go."
The agenda for the regular council meeting on Tuesday evening is shorter than usual with only three action items listed but concludes with an executive session, "to discuss the duties and responsibilities of the City Council Member Place 2." That seat is held by Sheppard, the mayor's lone and vocal supporter on the council.
According to the city charter, council members are not permitted to reveal the nature of an executive session unless required by state law, and those contacted declined to make any comment. However, Sheppard said he was not told and doesn't know why his position is up for discussion.
Contact Joshua Winata at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7476