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Friday, April 15, 2011

My Column on Killeen, TX Scandal

There is a burgeoning scandal brewing in Killeen, TX and it involves the City Manager being given $750,000 to leave his job. Some time ago, Connie Green magically negotiated a contract that would allow him to walk away from his gig with $555,000. So how did he get another $195,000 added to his severance package? While this story is likely to further the anger of Tea Partiers, there's a very positive angle to it that involves a private citizen who is taking action.

There's much more to this story. Check it out at Red County:
Killeen City Manager Cleans Up at City's Expense

Imagine having a job where you've secured a contract that says if you are terminated, you will receive $555,000. Then imagine having the gall to demand $750,000 to go away quietly with the caveat that you will not sue your employer. In the private sector, such a scenario might involve criminal charges for attempted extortion. It would also likely involve another termination – the individual who authorized such a contract. In the private sector, sound business decisions are a prerequisite for survival. In the public sector, sound business decisions are often as foreign as profitability.

In the city of Killeen, TX – which is adjacent to Fort Hood – such a scenario is playing out right now with the City Council. The stockholders taxpayers there are incredulous because City Manager Connie Green was given $750,000 of their money to go away. The extra $195,000 was ostensibly to ensure that Mr. Green didn't exercise any of those nasty little litigious clauses in his contract. It also appears to match his annual salary.
The decision to buyout Green came down to a City Council vote of 4-3. Oddly enough, the controversy involved allegations that the Council violated the Texas Open Meetings Act. After a closed session, Green submitted the terms of his departure which did not match the already obscene, taxpayer funded contract he had secured for himself. Killeen is a city of 127,000 people. The cost of Green's termination represents slightly more than $6 for every resident.

Enter Jonathan Okray. He is proving that private citizens can do far more than wait for election day to make a difference. Okray submitted an affidavit to the City Secretary requesting a recall election for all seven City Council members. The good news for Okray is that while the legwork is taxing, the low voter turnout in the last election makes his goal of 1,050 signatures for each council member quite achievable.

Okray hit the ground running on April 5th. He has until May 4th to get a total of 7,350 signatures from registered voters in the City of Killeen to force all seven recall elections. That figure is arrived at by multiplying the total number of voters by 51%; there were only 2,057 people who voted in the last election. As of April 14th, Okray is already well over the halfway mark in each case.

The Killeen Daily Herald reported on April 12th that the council voted down calls for an outside investigation into the buyout by a vote of 3-2. Interestingly, this time the Mayor, Tim Hancock's vote was needed to break the tie as three members were absent. Okray is gathering signatures for Hancock's recall but it is a bit of a steeper climb.
The taxpayers of Killeen aren't just being stonewalled by the city relative to how their money was spent; they're being stonewalled in the face of legitimate questions about why it was so grossly misspent.

The names of the Killeen City Council members who are facing an increasingly likely recall election are: Mayor Pro Tem Scott Cosper, Kenny Wells, JoAnn Purser, Ernest Wilkerson, Larry Cole, Billy Workman, and Juan Rivera.

Jonathan Okray can be reached at 254-368-8966 or
Hope you read it all.

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