Former Councilman Ken Wilkerson resigned on May 15 when he sent an email to Killeen City Manager Kent Cagle. However, the public and Killeen City Council themselves were not made aware of the mayor pro tem’s resignation until two days later, on Wednesday, May 17.
Wilkerson did not attend last Tuesday night’s council meeting, in which he was replaced as the city’s mayor pro tem by Councilwoman Nina Cobb.
Wilkerson was first elected in 2020, and has served as mayor pro tem since May 2022.
Rumors of Wilkerson’s resignation surfaced during the meeting, but city officials did not immediately verify them when asked by the Herald Tuesday night.
Wilkerson sent his resignation letter in the form of an email directly to Cagle at 2:23 p.m. Monday, according to a copy of the email the city released to the Herald on Wednesday.
“This email is to notify the city of my immediate resignation from my position as Councilman due to unforeseen health and personal issues,” Wilkerson said in the email.
Cagle sent the entire council, including the mayor, an email about the resignation Wednesday morning, according to Mayor Debbie-Nash King.
The Herald sent questions to the council members to get their thoughts on Wilkerson’s sudden departure and how the city handled the matter.
The questions the Herald sent were:
- How do you feel about his resignation? Did this news surprise you?
- How do you feel about how the resignation was handled by the city?
- Do you feel like you should have been told immediately or maybe before Tuesday’s council meeting?
Councilman Jose Segarra was the first to respond to the Herald’s questions.
“Regarding his resignation, I believe it was a personal decision, and I am confident that he had compelling reasons for stepping down. From my understanding, it doesn’t seem to be directly related to any past incidents. As for the surprise factor, I must admit I was taken aback.” Segarra said.
Segarra explained he was attending the Smart Cities Conference in Denver and was unable to attend the council meeting. He said he received an email on Wednesday from the city notifying him about the resignation.
“I’m unaware of whether the council was informed beforehand or not,” he said. “Should I have been informed immediately or perhaps before yesterday’s council meeting? I believe that decision would have been at the discretion of the Mayor, as she would have had the knowledge beforehand, if any.”
Mayor Nash-King said in a phone call Wednesday she only learned of Wilkerson’s resignation during Tuesday night’s council meeting, after she asked Cagle where Wilkerson was as the council was preparing to go into closed session. Cagle replied that Wilkerson had resigned, and the mayor told the city manager that he needs to let the council know, Nash-King said.
“I was surprised to hear on Tuesday evening that Mr. Wilkerson resigned from the city council,” she said. “I enjoyed working with him as a mayor pro tem, and he was a great asset to the council. Mr. Wilkerson will be truly missed, and I wish him the best for the future.”
When asked by phone Wednesday if she and the other council members should have been told by the city manager on Monday that Wilkerson resigned, Nash-King said she was unsure.
“I didn’t know the conversation” Wilkerson and Cagle may have had about it, she said.
“I believe there’s a reason,” Nash-King said, however, she didn’t speculate openly on what it might be.
The mayor also said Wilkerson could have let the whole council know about his resignation the same time he informed Cagle, and she doesn’t know why Wilkerson only sent the resignation letter to the city manager.
Councilwoman Jessica Gonzalez responded to the questions saying, “Mr. Wilkerson was a tremendous leader and will be missed. He stated he had to take care of health and family and that is a priority. I wish him all the best on his future endeavors.”
She did not answer questions about the city’s handling of the resignation.
The newest addition to the council, Councilman Joseph Solomon said he was told on Wednesday that Wilkerson had resigned.
“I understand his stated reasons for resigning. I only pray the best of success for Mr. Wilkerson and his family as they move forward with their life,” said Solomon, who was elected earlier this month and was sworn in Tuesday.
Council members Nina Cobb, Michael Boyd, and Ramon Alvarez did not respond to the questions by deadline.
The resignation comes on the heels of the April 18 outburst that saw Wilkerson aggressively confront frequent council critic Michael Fornino.
After Fornino accused Wilkerson of being “involved” in a 2014 mass shooting at Fort Cavazos, known then as Fort Hood, Wilkerson got up from the dais and confronted Fornino in the audience as other residents, attendees and police looked on. Wilkerson did not physically touch Fornino; however, at least two people intervened and stood in front of Wilkerson, appearing to hold him back in an effort to defuse the situation.
After pleas from the mayor, who temporarily halted the meeting and let it be known that Fornino was armed, Wilkerson eventually returned to the dais and apologized for his actions after the tense encounter. Fornino filed a police report about the situation, and said he wants Wilkerson to be charged criminally.
“No, I’m not going to rescind the charges,” Fornino said Wednesday in reaction to Wilkerson’s resignation. Killeen police on Friday verified that criminal investigation is continuing.
Wilkerson was the company commander of Spc. Ivan Lopez when Lopez killed three soldiers and wounded over a dozen others on April 2, 2014. While there were problems with Lopez’s leave paperwork, Wilkerson was not held responsible in any way for the shooting, according to the redacted Army investigation report released about the tragic shooting.
After the confrontation with Fornino, Wilkerson was reprimanded by the council in a 7-0 vote on May 2, and was told by Nash-King that if he ever confronted a resident during a meeting in a similar way again, he would be escorted out of the meeting. A written reprimand was also signed by Wilkerson himself, according to city spokeswoman Janell Ford.
The Herald sent questions to Cagle on Wednesday and again on Friday. As of deadline, he had not answered the questions.
Here is a copy of the emailed questions sent to the city manager:
- If Councilman Ken Wilkerson resigned on Monday, why did you sit on that news for 48 hours? Why did you not tell the council before Tuesday’s meeting?
- Why did you not publicly announce it during Tuesday’s council meeting, when rumors were swirling and people, including former City Councilwoman Melissa Brown, were talking about it?
- Should the mayor and the rest of the council, and the residents of Killeen, have known on Monday, or at least before Tuesday’s meeting, that Wilkerson had resigned?
- Your actions of not letting people know in a timely fashion, led people to believe Wilkerson was still on the council when he was replaced as the mayor pro tem, correct?
- Did you try to convince Wilkerson to not resign? When was that conversation and how did it go?
- Since you work for the council, did you not feel obligated to let them know as soon as possible that Wilkerson resigned? Please explain.
- What would have happened if Wilkerson had been re-nominated and approved to be the mayor pro tem again during Tuesday’s meeting?
WHAT...DOES...this mayor...DO? She allows the City Manager to relegate her and the city council to be spectators in their own government. Ask her a question about HER job / role / position - she'll tell you that you have to ask someone else.
This is the City of Killeen, NOT "Cagleburg". Leander had the good sense to fire him, and this crowd hires him enthusiastically. Worse, there are people in this town that will tell you Cagle is the "best city manager that we have EVER had". Oh? Based upon WHAT...exactly?
It is high time for her and the City Manager to go.
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