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By RUSSELL HUFFMAN
After a nearly two-hour long executive session, the Stephenville City Council returned to its regular meeting to announce it was approving the dismissal of Director of Planning and Building Services Judy Miller by City Administrator Pat Bridges.
It is believed Miller was quietly let go by Bridges sometime last Thursday and then Bridges informed council members of his decision via email.
It was anything but quiet prior to the council’s regular agenda getting underway. An overflow crowd required extra seating as citizens and area builders showed up and spoke out against Miller’s firing with several rounds of applause following their comments.
Rick Hale, president of the Stephenville Builders Association and Heidi Olsen, president of the Stephenville Board of Realtors both spoke out in support of Miller. Each cited Miller’s professional manner and business-oriented attitude as a positive direction for Stephenville. Mark Wallace, Vince Daddio and Justin Allison also spoke and their comments echoed Hale and Olsen’s thoughts of how dismissing Miller was a step in the wrong direction.
Mayor Kenny Weldon mentioned on a couple of occasions the decision was “not final” pending consultation by Bridges with the city council and that the city was following proper procedure as required by ordinance.
However, prior to executive session it was apparent changes had already been made.
Miller did not attend the meeting and the city’s credit card, keys and all other city-owned items were collected from her last week. The local newspaper was already running an advertisement for a “Director of Planning and Building Services” prior to the council meeting.
Mayor Weldon deferred to Bridges in announcing the decision following his consultation with the council.
“After consulting with the council,” Bridges said. “It is my decision is to dismiss Judy Miller from employment with the city of Stephenville under the no-fault separation policy in the employee handbook based on attendance, performance and conduct issues.”
Mayor Weldon then took the floor and explained the council had agreed to back Bridges’ decision based upon the guarantee from Bridges he would immediately start seeking out a person with equal of better services skills than Miller.
Miller’s firing is somewhat of a surprise considering there had been no reports of dissatisfaction concerning her job position and the vast support displayed prior to the council’s regular agenda.
City inspector Tom Heap is reported to have been placed on administrative leave in the same time frame as Miller’s dismissal. Many people also spoke out in support of Heap only to learn later he had already been returned to his duties with the city.