By RUSSELL HUFFMAN
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, among other things. This is the sixth, and final, part of a series of stories releasing even more information concerning these hot topics.
STEPHENVILLE (September 5, 2015) – Stephenville City Councilman Jerry Warren reportedly threatened a fellow council member in an email this week, saying he would be going to the local paper and exposing the behind-the-scenes action of Stephenville’s executive sessions.
Warren has already gone to paper once, but according to Stephenville Mayor Kenny Weldon, not all of what he told the newspaper was true.
In a one-word answer of “No” in response to a question of whether Judy Horn-Miller was being considered for some form of employment. Warren put himself into the crosshairs of public scrutiny when he claimed he was upset by the way the matter was handled. He even acknowledged the city did have problems in relation to Miller’s actions in an interview.
What’s Warren threatening to expose?
Reportedly, a hypothetical budget where the city looked at all options for reducing expenditures. If implemented, the budget might have included shutting down a major city service. It’s a normal budget process and based on the council’s ultimate goals of not cutting city services to the community, it simply would not happen.
The inner workings of the budget process are something citizens normally never hear about, because for one, “it’s all hypothetical” until the proposed budget is finalized. But Warren opened the door to private workings of the council without the public so much as knocking on it.
The “threatening email” is alleged to have stated that if any more inner-council emails were forwarded to the press, Warren would carry out his threat of going public.
Warren did not include City Administrator Pat Bridges in the email, and has accused Bridges of leaking information to The Flash Today concerning Warren’s behind the scenes actions. (Seeing as how Bridges never got the email, The Flash Today could not have gotten the information from Bridges. Other than Open Record Requests, Bridges has never provided The Flash Today information that was used in this series.)
In a prior email, Warren expresses his desire to remove Bridges from the process of the annexation plan as Warren sees annexation as having nothing to do with, “the day-to-day” operation of the city. This is a copy of that email, word for word, with no editing except the removal of council email addresses.
From: Jerry Warren
Date: September 3, 2015 at 2:23:18 PM CDT
To: Kenny Weldon
Cc: Rhett Harrison, Patrick Bridges, Mark McClinton, Boyd Waggoner, Doug Svien, Russ McDanel, Alan Nix, Sherry Zachery
Subject: Re: Annexation Committee
The annexation committee was set up by the planning and development standing committee consisting of me, Boyd, and McDanel. McClinton was added as a member later. 16 people were appointed and they elected Rhett as chairman. That was before Rhett was elected as councilman. This sub committee’s job was to set up a plan for annexation of areas bordering the city. Plain and simple a matter of policy. Nothing whatsoever to do with day to day operation of city, the city administrators job. Please take Pat out of the process.
Now, on to the council and email addresses – several city council members do not have a .gov email address for the city, and because some personal email addresses were used, The Flash has elected not to publish them.
Open meeting laws come into question when one council member emails all council members (or at least enough for a quorum) and then one of them replies with all council members still c.c. in the email. This constitutes a council discussion of city business without a public agenda or open public meeting.
Regardless of the legality, it is not the perception the Stephenville City Council wants to portray to the public, but Warren has apparently taken a different approach. Despite numerous attempts by The Flash Today to obtain a response to his “NO” question regarding potential employment of Miller, Warren has remained silent but has made recent Facebook posts on the highly popular page Erath County Breaking News.
This is the second time Warren has accused The Flash Today of “lies,” but he won’t point to what is not factual despite those numerous requests.
Bill Campbell, after deflecting a personal attack by a Warren supporter, wrote on Erath County Breaking News:
“Now let’s discuss professionalism and how it relates to this post. Jerry Warren has chosen to enter the political field and seek election to a public office. I have no such desires. When he made the decision to seek public office, he should have understood that, we the public that he represents, have a right and a duty to question and demand clarity from those elected officials. Mr. Warren, in a public forum, has failed to make himself clear. I have the right to question the demeanor of my elected officials and I will exercise that right when and however I choose.”
Several members of the council were clearly embarrassed by Warren’s actions at the last city council meeting as well. While discussing the bridge project on West College Street, Warren asked why Nick Williams, the Stephenville Public Works Director, couldn’t handle a new bridge design study, because after all, “It’s not rocket science.”
Mayor Kenny Weldon
Weldon was frustrated recently when the new video system for streaming council meetings did not work properly, and has answered to reports concerning the way he handled the matter.
Weldon had promised the new system would be working and admits he was embarrassed when it did not at one recent meeting.
“Yes, I was upset. I had made a promise to a fellow council member (Doug Svien) that he would be able to watch the proceedings. Doug was taking care of family matters and was unable to attend,” Weldon said.
Upset, Weldon approached the city employee he felt was responsible for the equipment failure in a manner concerning to others. He admits he mishandled the situation.
“The second I opened my mouth I realized I was wrong to do so and I checked myself,” Weldon said. “We have a proper way of conducting business and that wasn’t the way.”
Weldon instead went to Bridges to expressed his displeasure and ask the matter be corrected. Later, Weldon even apologized to the employee, Chris Dillard, and to assure him it wasn’t how he wanted to do business now or in the future.
Meanwhile, the rumor mill had started to churn concerning why the council did not stream video of the meeting.
The real answer is a simple technology mishap. Upgrading video and audio equipment often requires upgrading streaming equipment, as well. The city’s new DVR system is designed to hold 30 days of recordings 24-7, and according to the installer is working as promised.
So what’s next for the Stephenville City Council?
“We have recognized problems and we have immediately moved to correct them,” Weldon said. “In the course of those dealings we have discussed many options because we felt those might be the best and timeliest to move forward.”
Weldon goes on to explain, “We have to explore all possibilities and then also look at the possible outcomes involved. That’s all while keeping in mind we are attempting to serve the needs of this community first and utmost.”
Problems like prematurely issuing building permits are being audited, and Weldon promises nobody is going to fly under the radar and assessment reviews will ensure that.
“I hope you will agree, it is time for blame and criticism to stop. We might not agree on every issue, but that’s not the goal. Coming together as a community to focus on positive and common interests will enable us to be successful, as together we accomplish great things for Stephenville. If we truly love our community, we will find ways to work together, to find solutions, and to be supportive of one another. It is a cause greater than ourselves. Let’s find ways to support the entire community so together, we can continue to enjoy this special place we call home,” Weldon said.
EDITOR’S NOTES — This is the final chapter in this series. The Stephenville City Council is due a fair chance to correct some very public problems that have come to light. While this is the final chapter in a series, The Flash Today and its staff will remain vigilant in informing the public.