Mayor fights back
By 01/09/2003 00:00:00
Wilmer mayor regains office as shakeup continues
The Ellis County Press
WILMER - Mayor Linda Root's attempt to reenter her city hall office Monday, Jan. 6, resulted in another confrontation between her and newly-appointed City Administrator Thom Lauer.
Root was called at her home early Monday morning after Lauer and Wil-mer Fire Chief Eugene Lowe, the former may-or, entered the office reportedly throwing away documen-ts and files.
'That's garbage [allegations],' said Councilmember Don Hudson. 'I wasn't there, but I have faith in Thom Lauer and don't think he would do that. There was a cat Root had and the place smelled like urine and cat litter. We had to clean carpet stains … so they could have been cleaning it up. City buildings are not the place to keep cats. Root ate in the office and had food in there, too. So I [imagine] they were just cleaning up.'
Soon after the incident, reporters from Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV Channel 8 had pulled up, ready to do a follow-up story from last week.
The Ellis County Press articles about the City of Wilmer and the shift in power were picked up by Channel 8 and a story aired last week.
Lauer, the former Wilmer police chief, was hired as administrator on Dec. 19, and immediately, he ordered new locks and keys for city hall, leaving Root with no access to her office..
Root called a locksmith to get the locks changed so she could enter into her office.
'I told him [locksmith] I'll pay him because city council members are threatening to sue him [for changing the locks],' Root said.
'I'll take full responsibility, ethically, morally … I paid for the locksmith with [two checks].'
When asked if his duties, including changing locks, were outlined when hired, Council-member Lange said they were, but after talking with reporters, Lauer said he wasn't sure exactly what the duties of his official position were and he needed to consult with council members.
Root cited a Texas Attorney General opinion stating, '…the Legislature has granted express statutory duties to the mayor or duly appointed city manager of a general-law city, the city council has no authority to assign those duties to a city administrator or other city officer or agent.'
City Attorney Rob Dillard said the way Wilmer City Councilmembers went about creating the administrator position could be in conflict of state law.
'He's the city administrator,' Councilmember Tiny Lange said.
'He needs to do the day-to-day operations.
'If it's trash files that we don't need to keep, why keep it. You know?'
Lange wouldn't specify what files were considered 'trash,' but she did say the mayor has conducted the same behavior with former city employees.
'Root locked out the city secretary,' Lange said, referring to Crystol Birdwell, the former secretary who has been blamed for the city's six-figure IRS penalties.
'Nothing has been done that she hasn't done. She confiscated her computer - but did we call the news media? No.'
Root said as the mayor, she had the authority to investigate malfeasance and corruption.
'I'm the mayor. I'm an elected official, elected by the people' she said.
'And as the mayor, I secured that computer.
'In the law, the mayor has the duty and the authority to be the head of the municipal officers and Crystol was a municipal officer.'
Citizens gathered at city hall during the confrontation Monday, all of them wanting to get things under control and get their city government to cooperate.
'We want the mayor back in office, back where she belongs,' said Wilmer resident Jack Burniski.
'This is our initiative. It's old Soviet Union type of government.
'If we don't put this back to normal, we have no functioning government,' Burniski said. 'We need help here.'