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Former Wilmer city secretary rehired

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The Ellis County Press

WILMER - Residents attending the Wilmer City Council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 4, stormed out of the meeting outraged after council members voted 3-1 to reinstate Crystol Birdwell to her former position as Wilmer City Secretary.

The council fired Birdwell in June 2002, after she was accused of not paying quarterly employee payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.

Wilmer Mayor Linda Root said she liked Birdwell as a person, but she was not a very good city secretary.

'Would anyone in their right mind hire back an employee who cost their company thousands and thousands of dollars?' Root said.

'That's the same council who fired her. To bring Crystol back is a slap to the citizens.'

Council Member Don Hudson made the motion to rehire Birdwell effective immediately to her former position, with the same salary as when she was fired.

The crowd erupted in anger, yelling at the council members while they discussed why Birdwell should be hired back.

Councilwoman Marlena Hagen, the sole vote against Birdwell, asked why the city could not advertise for position to find someone else with the same credentials to do the job.

Hudson said Birdwell had been treated unfairly by being investigated, but no proof was ever presented of any wrong doing on her part.

He said it was time for this to end and for the city to move forward.

'She has been accused of everything, but nothing has been proved against her,' Hudson said.

'She's suffered. Her family has suffered.'

The mayor said no one has

ever investigated the allegations against Birdwell.

'My question to Hudson would be who investigated her,' Root said.

'Nobody investigated her.'

Mayor Pro-Tem Tiny Lange said Birdwell was investigated by the Dallas County District Attorney's office, but no charges were brought against her.

'There is no evidence that there was any wrong doing,' Lange said. She said Birdwell would have not been rehired if any charges had been brought against her.

'I'm here for the citizens, not the politicans,' Lange said.

'I don't consider myself on one side or the other.'

The mayor pro-tem ordered the audience members not to speak out, instructing a Wilmer officer to escort any violators out of the building, as she attempted to regain control of the meeting.

The mayor missed the council meeting due to being out of town to attend the funeral service of a friend.

Another citizen cried, 'this is a travesty of justice,' as the crowd poured out of the meeting hall.

Hudson acknowledged he was Birdwell's largest critic and made the motion last year to terminate her employment, after he said the city auditors told him Wilmer's employee payroll taxes had not been paid to the IRS.

Root said Birdwell put money in the water fund, where it was later found by the auditors.

Hudson confirmed the auditors later discovered the money had not been paid to the IRS, but was still in the city's account, so 30 days later the principal part of the taxes had been paid.

'The fact is we had the money and paid it,' said Hudson.

In February of 2002 the city paid the IRS $550,000 for past due tax payments, Root said.

Documents show the city gave Witherspoon, Yeldell and Wilson, the city's auditing firm power of attorney to negotiate with the IRS for taxes due from 1998 to 2002.

Lange said the city paid $60,000 for interest and late charges after $275,000 were written off by the IRS.

Employment records show former city administrator, David Ferguson, was only employed by the city for a few months from October 1999 to March 2000, according to Root.

In previously published reports by the Ellis County Press, Lange said Ferguson had instructed Birdwell to not mail the checks she had already printed to the IRS.

Ferguson was supposed to file the proper documentation and pay the government electronically, where the checks would not have to be mailed.

Hudson said Birdwell then placed the checks in a file for safe keeping to document they had been paid.

Some residents have said the city's tax problems began when Birdwell was hired in 1998.

A lot of checks written for as much as $4,700, supposed to be paid to the IRS, date from 1998 to 2002 were marked void in large blue letters.

Some residents have said this is part of the proof the taxes were not paid.

Birdwell said when she was hired in 1998 it was regular policy to pay the taxes by phone.

She said by calling the taxes in quarterly, the money was supposed to be electronically removed from the account.

City Administrator Thom Lauer said Birdwell reported to work on the morning of Monday, Sept. 9.

'We don't have a city secretary, but we are required by law to have one,' Lauer said.

'The city needs a city secretary.'

A city secretary works for the council, taking their phone calls, handling the day to day clerical operations of city government, posts meeting agendas, supervises office assistants, and tax payments.

'I am not in a position to hire a city secretary. The council hires the secretary,' Lauer said.
'I support the decision of the council.'

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