By RUSSELL HUFFMAN || firstname.lastname@example.org
The Flash Today has obtained electronic communications between city officials involving the recent parting of ways between Judy Horn-Miller and the city of Stephenville. This is the first part of a series of stories releasing even more information about the incidents that led to Miller’s release.
STEPHENVILLE (August 29, 2015) — Sex allegations, lies, cover-ups and no videotape.
And are Grandpa’s bones washing away down at the Mount Olive Cemetery due to official blunders?
Small town politics are anything but boring.
When Stephenville Director of Planning and Building Services Judy Horn-Miller was let go earlier this month it was evident the decision to do so did not set well with several city council members. Local builders and realtors also showed up in force to speak out on Miller’s behalf. Despite the heaps of praise for Miller, the council announced it was backing the decision of City Administrator Pat Bridges.
Bridges gave a vague reason for using the city’s mutual separation agreement and cited performance, attendance and conduct as his reasoning for the dismissal. The news Miller was no longer with the city staff was a stunner, but the word of her firing was already out before the city council met.
In fact, the local paper carried a job listing for a director of planning and city services on a Sunday and the council didn’t meet until the next week. City ordinance requires Bridges to consult with the council prior to dismissing a city director. It was apparent after an executive session the dismissal without council consultation was a sticking point for some.
Other than Councilman Jerry Warren, nobody spoke up. Warren was guarded when placing an advertisement in the paper and speaking carefully about the executive session in an interview. Warren’s focus was not on why, but more about how the process failed to include input from him.
City councilman Boyd Waggoner has not shied away from the subject, being open and public with his belief that Stephenville was making a mistake in considering Miller.
Prior to an executive session concerning Miller’s hiring, Waggoner spoke in an open meeting against the hire.
“When Judy Miller was a temporary employee in Planning and Building Services, in January, 2015, she came to an executive session and told the city council that if the city council did not hire her choice for city administrator that she would quit working for Stephenville. After that I Googled her and found she had been “separated” from her last three city jobs (2009, 2011 and 2013) for various reasons, including creating a “hostile environment,” Waggoner said.
What Waggoner found only added to his concern about Miller.
“I had that record published in the local newspaper in an attempt to persuade the council not to hire her. I was not successful. We hired her anyway, then ‘separated’ with her in less than six months, partly for creating a ‘hostile environment,’ which was one of the problems from her past, according to available newspaper articles.”
Now, according to Waggoner, Miller is using the local newspaper as a platform to tell “her side of the story,” and the city council is being held mute because of worries about what can and cannot be said publicly concerning the topic of an executive session.
“Since I have learned that the executive session law does not require me to hide from the public anything but the taped record, I am not going along with any agreements to hide information that I believe the public should have, and threats to the council to quit their job if the council does not vote to hire certain people is just one example of what the public should know,” Waggoner said. “Judy Miller has been on the front page of the newspaper claiming she was unfairly treated by the city. It seems fair that the public should hear the reasons for the city’s decision, and since I am not required to hide it from the public, and I think they should have it, I am releasing the information.”
An email written by Bridges is dated August 3, 2015, and was originally addressed to Mayor Kenny Weldon and all the current council members to include Mark McClinton, Waggoner, Doug Svien, Russ McDanel, Rhett Harrison, Alan Nix, Sherry Zachery and Warren.
Bridges’ email is lengthy The Flash Today is consulting on whether or not to release its full contents – any wording contained in quotes are exact wording from the email. Because the email failed to include one builder’s name The Flash Today is not including others in the interest of fairness. If the email is published in full those names will appear in its content.
In the area of performance…
“Ms. Horn allowed the premature issuance of a building permit on at least two different occasions. The building permits were approved prior to required drainage studies. Ms. Horn allowed the approval of a building permit for **** at 101 E. Riverside.”
“On 04-16-14, during a discussion of this incident, Ms. Horn stated she approved the permit prematurely because of the difficulty **** was having in getting a permit approved for the construction of a residential neighborhood, Elk Ridges Estates, Phase III. The Riverside permit had unresolved issues with drainage and detention that should have been resolved before the permit was ever issued. Horn apologized for the premature issuance of the permit and stated it would never happen again.”
It appeared to be a case of Miller making sure she followed the council’s guidelines of getting the process of planning and building services streamlined. But according to Bridges, Miller changed her story and in front of witnesses she laid blame for the issuance at the feet of Public Works Director Nick Williams.
“On 04-17-15, after a meeting involving legal adviser Randy Thomas, Planning and Building Services Director Judy Miller, Public Works Director Nick Williams, city of Stephenville employee Bruce Cole and Shawn Snyder, Field Coordinator, Flood Mitigation Planning Texas Water Development Board, I met with Mr. Thomas in my office. We were discussing the premature issuance of the building permit at 101 Riverside. At some point, Ms. Horn also entered my office. Horn stated in the presence of Mr. Thomas, the Public Works Director Nick Williams had approved the permit. Horn stated Williams had told her he had no issues with the permit. I had some doubts about her statements due to my knowledge of Mr. Williams and his work ethic. Mr. Williams is very diligent and detail oriented in the discharge of his duties.”
Bridges went on to explain he had confirmed his doubts the next day.
“On 04-28-15, I visited with Mr. Williams about the statement made by Ms. Miller. I asked Mr. Williams if he had ever approved or given any type of response indicating approval in reference to the permit for the construction project at 101 E. Riverside. Mr. Williams emphatically denied having any knowledge the permit had been approved until after it occurred. Mr. Williams was directed to provide me with a detailed statement regarding his knowledge of the matter.”
Bridges’ concerns about Miller’s actions and his doubts about her credibility were coming from both her performance and conduct while at work.
Just three days after Miller was hired full-time, she allowed the approval of a building permit for four (4) six-plex units at 1102 College Farm Rd. Said permit was approved on 02-10-15 without review and without proof that all drainage and retention issues had been resolved. This project is in the construction phase and unresolved drainage issues have created a potential threat to historic Mount Olive Cemetery.
While the average Stephenville citizen can’t direct you to the cemetery’s location, the oldest grave has been in place more than 115 years. Barbra Coker’s headstone has the appearance of being hand-made by a family member, the misspelled word “Dieed” still clearly visible.
The Mount Olive Cemetery lies below the construction project on what appears to be about a three-foot slope. The construction project has added another 18 inches to that slope. There are more than 100 graves located in the cemetery and about a dozen of them already show damage from rain water drainage in the past. A check with Google Earth shows the drop in elevation from one end of the cemetery to the other to be a six-foot difference.
While some folks were getting permits at a speedy rate, there were others who were not as Bridges details three visits by **** who claims Miller would not answer or return his phone calls. The builder started building without a permit.
It has remained unclear as to what was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” but there was a third documented case of Miller prematurely approving a permit or certificate when the Erath County Central Appraisal District received a certificate of occupancy for its new location.
The new CAD building had not been inspected by the city or the Fire Marshal’s office, and the certificate was dated incorrectly and never signed.
Stay plugged into The Flash Today as we detail how Bridges was approached by different employees who reported they believed a possible inappropriate relationship was developing between Miller and one of her subordinates. There are details concerning an email with the subject line “2pm at your place” and allegations Miller called fellow employees names like “Idiot” and “Jacka**” in her electronic communications.