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 third part of a series of stories releasing even more information about the incidents that led to Miller’s dismissal.
In the end, Judy Miller’s dismissal as Stephenville Planning and Building Services Director came about due to a lack of trust from City Administrator Pat Bridges.
“Through I am responsible for bringing Ms. Horn (Miller) into the organization,” Bridges wrote in a nine-page email to the council dated August 3, 2015. “I recognize after several months that my discussions with her over this time have been largely unsuccessful. Trust is a key issue and based on her actions I am concerned about my ability to trust her word.”
Bridges’ trust in Miller had apparently been going through some strong tests as a series of odd reports and events began reaching his ear shortly after Miller was hired full time.
Bridges first concerns regarded Miller’s performance, failing to attend mandatory employee training and attendance during office hours. Miller’s response to missing training sessions and her attendance issues seem questionable as well.
“Horn also indicated she felt under more scrutiny than others, because perhaps some may be jealous of the recognition she is receiving from the public. Horn’s actions in this matter amounted to insubordination,” Bridges wrote.
But insubordination paled to the potentially embarrassing information he kept receiving from employees.
“Horn’s conduct has resulted in some potentially embarrassing situations. During the month of February 2015, I was approached on more than one occasion by different employees, concerned about a possible inappropriate relationship developing between Horn and her subordinate Thomas Heap.”
It was during this same time frame, in a review of Horn’s (Miller) emails to and from Heap, Bridges discovered an email from Heap to Horn dated February 9, 2015. There was no message in the body and the subject line read “2pm at your place”. The message had been sent at 1:23 p.m., and at 2 p.m. both employees should have been conducting city business.
The reports Bridges received from city employees cited they felt something inappropriate was developing and that Horn and Heap arrived at work together, “and were often seen at City Hall outside of normal business hours.”
One report drew more attention than the others.
“I received notice from Human Resources Manager Sheryl Truss that one particular day during snowy weather, she arrived around 6:30-6:45 am. Truss observed footprints in the snow by the back door. The back door was locked and when she opened the door it was dark with no lights on.
“She went upstairs, opened her office and then went into the conference room across the hall to make coffee. She heard some voices and looked outside the conference room door, turned and saw Horn. Horn was smiling and looking down the hall. Truss described Horn as prancing backwards, barefooted and grinning.”
Truss stated, “She heard another voice and observed Thomas Heap walking down the hall toward Ms. Horn. Horn and Heap continued down the hallway toward Horn’s office.”
Bridges became concerned enough he had a conversation with Horn concerning the allegations he was hearing. Horn dismissed the allegations and insisted she and Heap were merely “good friends.”
“I warned Horn to be careful about the perceptions that were being created and I suggested she should distance herself from Heap to maintain a professional appearance. As a response to other employees in City Hall, I issued an article about spreading rumors and gossip as I had no solid proof of impropriety.”
Bridges may not have had solid proof of impropriety, but he devoted nearly a page of his nine-page email toward the allegations.
A few months later, Miller displayed a seemingly overprotective attitude toward Heap in emails when a city employee failed to include Heap in correspondence with multiple recipients. The employee, Bruce Cole had sent out an email describing storm damage in Wimberly, Texas, but had failed to include Heap in the c.c.
In response, on June 1, 2015, Miller wrote, “What an Idiot. He includes Jimmy and Joe Ann but doesn’t include you. Jacka**!”
Cole had complained of a “hostile environment,” especially after he sent in plans for review for a building project Miller had already given the go ahead for. After Cole was transferred from Miller’s supervision, she again displayed a protective attitude.
From an email on June 17, 2015, “This idiot copies everybody and their dog including Jeremy???? And failed to include the Building Official. A real idiot!”
In summing up his email, Bridges wrote, “There is no question that Ms. Horn has done good things for the city of Stephenville during her probationary period. Her skills, knowledge and abilities in the areas of planning and zoning are certainly positive attributes. She has been someone that I have relied on for guidance at certain times. However, someone with 40+ years of experience, especially at a director or top administrative level, should be able to display leadership and management qualities that serve to inspire subordinates and the public alike.”
Bridges ends his email with the following statement, “Despite her success, no one is or should be irreplaceable if they continue to engage in a pattern of behavior that is detrimental to an organization. I separated Ms. Horn from employment with the city of Stephenville under the no-fault separation because of probationary status and my belief that it was in the best interest of the city.”
Now, as the city moves forward, it is short one building inspector and weighing the decision of spending $10,000 a month with an outside contractor to accommodate the needs of Stephenville’s planning and building services until a replacement is found.
Stay plugged into The Flash as there’s a persistent rumor that Judy Miller is being considered for rehire or to possibly serve in some capacity in Stephenville’s new Economic Development Foundation. Mayor Kenny Weldon has promised to sit down with The Flash Today and explain what’s been happening down at City Hall and a meeting he had that sparked all those rumors about Miller coming back.