By Sheila Hatfield /The Ellis County Press
FERRIS – Two protesters continued the quest for the city to remove Bill Jordan from the city’s city manager’s position at the Monday. June 4 council meeting.
“Why hasn’t he been fired? “asked Tina Miller. Owner of Ferris’ Country Corner Treasures, “Do the right thing – terminate the person who is not doing his job.”
Miller, who has appeared before the council multiple times to plead with council members to rid the city of City Manager Bill Jordan, said she didn’t understand why the council would renew his contract with 11 counts of sexual harassment against him and his constant retaliations against city employees, police department officials, the economic development director and The Ellis County Press publisher.
“Take away his power,” continued Miller, who was wearing a black t-shirt with white lettering readng, “Drain the Ferris Swamp.”
“How long do you think your citizens are going to put up with this?” said the second speaker, 20-year Ferris resident Charleen Johnson, owner of Crazy Girl Terrariums, who was also wearing a “Swamp” shirt.
Johnson said it’s been one embarrassment after another and, “We are the people and we’re sick of it.”
She spoke about what a disgusting example they were setting for the city’s children and also called for Jordan’s termination.
Before the citizen’s comments began, recently-seated Mayor Jim Swafford asked Miller to keep her comments respectable, with no name calling or shouting. Miller and Johnson complied with his request, but following the complaints, Councilwoman Sherie Chapman pointed out that according to laws regarding open meetings, anyone could name names or say anything they want to.
The audience broke into applause each time anyone referenced terminating Jordan.
Former Council candidate Jo Monroe also signed up to speak, but when her name was called, she replied, “I want to pass at this time.”
The Ellis County Press Publisher Charles Hatfield was listed on the executive session as a conflict of interest regarding his seats on the planning and zoning and economic development boards.
“I’ve served on those boards for 20 years,” said Hatfield, who couldn’t understand why there was an issue and had submitted a request to having the so-called problem brought out in open session, which is his right.
The request was ignored, and he was also not allowed to sit in the session to hear allegations against him.
Thinking the problem was brought forward because of his paper’s pending lawsuit against the city for removing the paper as the city’s legal publication, he said, “They are separate issues, have nothing to do with each other and have no conflict of interest.”
Review of city manager directives was also on the executive session agenda and directives were apparently given to Jordan, but those directives were not made public. No other action was taken regarding executive session.
In one of the open agenda items, Jordan said there were two conflicts that needed to be changed. One was if an employee was terminated, he/she was to receive their last check at the next pay cycle, but the law states it had to be issued within six days after termination.
The other was that local ordinance 30 stated the city manager has to present any employee disciplinary action or terminations to the mayor for review, but he said the city manager’s action should be final.
The audience erupted against the notion of giving Jordan even more power, and Councilman Rick Barrett said, “Due to the current climate, I’m a little uncomfortable about giving you that kind of power.” (Applause)
“You’ve got a hit list,” said Councilwoman Sherie Chapman, who referred to his behavior at this time… (Applause)
Chapman said a person’s character lends to this (climate) and she doesn’t want him to cross lines, “We cannot ignore this (behavior).”
She said the Texas Municipal League recommends you consult…”
“TML is not our attorney – Hala is,” said Jordan.
“The TML governs city councils,” answered Chapman. (Applause)
City Attorney Michael Hala clarified the City Secretary works directly under the council now and also the city manager and city administrator titles were interchangeable. There wasn’t much difference.
Barrett said department heads issued discipline, not the city manager.
Jordan said it was only a matter of a paragraph removal in the ordinance.
Barrett said they need to go back and renew the ordinance and the city manager and put it on the next agenda. There was no action, but they recognized they do have to do the checks in six days
Other agenda action included appointing retired Dallas Police Officer James Shivers to the Park Board. Shivers wasn’t present, so he will have to appear before the city secretary to be sworn in.
There was discussion about where to move the fire and police departments from their temporary buildings, since Jordan’s project for a bond election to build a city complex failed at the polls May 5.
The council wants cost analysis’ on purchasing the current buildings instead of renting and costs of building better facilities.
Other concerns were the goals, objectives and vision for the upcoming year.
Jordan said he was a little behind the “8-ball” on developing a time-line and hoped to have everything finalized by September.
Councilman Clayton Hunter said since Waste Management took over the landfill years ago, the city had become too dependent on the fees being budgeted. “We need to ween ourselves from that.”
Chapman brought up serious concerns about Ferris’ water quality and it needed to be one of their top projects.
In addition, the council discussed the EPA Administrative Order (also put on the agenda by Chapman), the upcoming budget, updating and clarifying the financial report, fireworks display for next year, and other planned activities at Mutz Park.
All-in-all, the council meeting was more professional and peaceful than it’s been in a very long time.
Citizens gathered outside during a lengthy executive session and all seemed to agree the council was finally headed in the right direction.