BY RUSSELL HUFFMAN
STEPHENVILLE (October 6, 2015) — The meeting was far from regular at Stephenville City Hall Tuesday night as Councilmen Jerry Warren and Boyd Waggoner both called Mayor Kenny Weldon and Stephenville City Administrator Pat Bridges on the carpet over minutes from the council’s September 1 meeting.
Waggoner’s main feeling was that there was an inaccuracy concerning a statement from Bridges. Later, during that September meeting, Weldon was very complimentary and also emphasized the council’s goal of “no reductions in city services” had been realized.
Waggoner’s grief lay with recent budget reductions coming to light at the Stephenville Senior Citizens Center town-hall meeting that had already brought attention to nearly $24,000 in budget reductions. He also pointed out that budget reductions had also been seen at the library.
An attorney by trade, Waggoner carefully expressed himself saying, “no reductions was not entirely accurate.”
Warren was more blunt than Waggoner on the matter saying, “It wasn’t me that lied and I want that on the record.”
Bridges’ red penning on the budget came at the order of the council as it has sought ways to fund the recently formed Stephenville Economic Development Authority (SEDA).
It has been more than a month since the final story in a six-part series was published and the councilman has attended two other special council meetings without mentioning the subject. The second meeting was attended by the writer of those articles whom Warren also chose to call out during his time to speak.
“First time back in mid-August, at Mr. (Michael) Ross’ request, I did an interview with the Empire-Tribune and gave him straight forward answers. Then sometime later, on social media, I was called dishonest by Russell Huffman,” Warren said. “One conversation I recall with Zachery, Rhett, You (Mayor Weldon), me and the Wallaces were in attendance. And I asked you if you had told Russell Huffman if I gave straight answers and you said, ‘yes’.”
Warren continued his statement, “He took it upon himself to print after this that I was dishonest. Criticism comes with the job, but being called a liar not so much.” Warren added in reference to the disputed meeting minutes. “It wasn’t me that lied and I want that on the record.”
Warren’s perceived problems with The Flash Today come over the series of articles where it was revealed he had sent other council members emails with threats to “go to the paper to reveal a hypothetical budget” and the answer of “no” to whether or not former Director of Planning and Building Services Judy Miller had been considered for a position with SEDA following her dismissal. Warren’s account differed from other reports, and even after the articles were published, Miller’s name was still floating around in efforts to move along stalled projects.
Despite numerous attempts for clarification and a promise to publish the exact wordings of his response as to why Warren answered “no” in the published interview, Warren has not responded. He has also written some, now deleted, posts on Facebook alleging “yellow journalism.” Despite several requests by citizens to clarify his statements, Warren made no comments and he has not approached the newspaper again.
Warren’s published interview (and a purchased advertisement on the matter) is out of the norm because it covered information from an executive session which is normally kept under wraps. Most executive sessions cover legal or personnel matters and generally only the actions taken are made public.
Warren broke ranks and expressed disappointment and unhappiness over not being consulted when Bridges let Miller go via the city’s mutual separation agreement. Warren’s advertisement made it pretty clear he had no part in dismissing Miller.
In regular council business, approval was given for the final plat of Creekside Townhomes as builder Andy Hansen updated the council on a minor change of one additional unit. Mayor Pro-Tem Russ McDanel pointed out that Trafalgar Homes is helping with sewer installation in the area with Hansen hoping a future tax abatement will help recover some of those costs.
SEDA board member Shelby Slawson, who was watching the meeting, got called to the podium during a discussion generated by Councilman Alan Nix over concerns in the organization’s bylaws and a question over whether or not the executive director could be a city council person or city employee.
Nix wanted it to be clearer in the bylaws about the position so that when the faces of council and SEDA board changes there would be a universal understanding. Slawson wasn’t there to speak on behalf of the board, but did seem to feel such wording could easily be incorporated into the bylaws.
Mayor Weldon didn’t hesitate to plug the city’s upcoming Saturday entertainment with Bygone Days, Sundown on the Square and the Lee Roy Parnell concert. Known for looking dapper at council meetings, Weldon even flashed a Sundown on the Square t-shirt for all to admire.
Following its regular meeting, the council went into executive session to discuss pending or contemplated litigation – Stephenville City Electric Inc. et al V. City of Stephenville and Mark Kaiser, Cause No. CV-33,010 266th Judicial District Court, Erath County, Texas.
The Flash Today wishes for the public to know that Mr. Warren still has an extended invitation to clarify his published and posted social media statements without editing. In an effort to further clarify reports, an official public information request for all emails initiated by Warren concerning city business will be sent to the city Wednesday.