Tempers flare at Ferris City Council meetings

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Support for police chief disputed

By Sheila Hatfield The Ellis County Press

FERRIS – Councilwoman Sherie Chapman continued her quest in the last two council/budget meetings to hold the Ferris City Council accountable for recent scandals and other disputes ranging from support for Ferris Police Chief Eddie Salazar to overspending without soliciting proper bidding processes for city projects.

Chapman’s relentless accusations and questioning led to several outbreaks of temper at the Tuesday, Sept. 11 and Monday, Sept. 17 meetings.

“We need to support our police department,” said Chapman at the Tuesday, Sept. 11 meeting after she accused Councilmen Bobby Lindsey and Jay Walsh of prejudice against Salazar, asking them to recuse themselves against voting on police department matters due to their involvement in a complaint brought against the two councilmen by Johnathan Hope regarding the chief.

Hope previously turned in a complaint to City Manager Bill Jordan, claiming Lindsey and Walsh told him of a plan to, “get rid of (Salazar).”

Even though the council decided to “take no action” concerning Hope’s accusations, they somehow made their way to the Ellis County District Attorney’s office.

Councilman Walsh seemed convinced Chapman was the one who had filed the papers with the county, and reading from a prepared script, sternly addressed the councilwoman, voicing his accusations and demanding an apology from her.

Walsh then appeared completely befuddled moments later when Mayor Jim Swafford, from the dais, admitted he was the one who had actually contacted and met with the Ellis County District Attorney’s office.

Chapman then smilingly suggested Walsh should be the one apologizing – to her, and chided “if you had bothered to ask me, I would have told you that I wasn’t the one.”

Swafford admitted he had given the complaints to the Ellis County District Attorney’s office in an effort to quit “sweeping things under the rug,” and had been told by the DA there was not enough evidence for any charges “at this time.”

At the Monday, Sept. 17 meeting, Lindsey admitted he had lost confidence in the department based on revelations found in the Bowman Report, who investigated previous scandals in the city government.

“What can I do to earn your trust?” asked Salazar, who told the council he just wanted the community to be unified.

“I’ve said all I intend to say about the matter,” said Councilman Rick Barrett, who actually said nothing about the disputes, except to, “move on.”

Covenant Pastor Michael Masek spoke during Monday’s public comment section and said, “Our goal is to be servants to the community, “We need to come together to provide a united front.”

Salazar presented a commendation to Officer Emily Hickman for her quick action to save the life of a motorist who was bleeding internally and Swafford presented the same to Salazar for the quick response of the department during this incident.

Chapman continued to question monies to be spent for a new proposed police and fire facility design and other projects that should be going out for bids.

“Are you attacking me, Mr. Walsh?” said Chapman when the discussion got heated as Walsh and Lindsey attempted to push their agenda item of removing the mayor as the disciplinarian for city employees, forcing problems to be brought before the full council.

Chapman suggested it was a veiled attempt to blindside the chief to get rid of him.

“I was told you have a hit list,” said Chapman, It’s not right – it’s not fair – it’s inappropriate.”

Walsh said it wasn’t about getting rid of the chief.

“Will you at least give me the opportunity to work out these trust issues?” asked Swafford.

Barrett said he could not support this action at this time and motioned to postpone the issue until the Oct. 1 meeting, which passed.

Other action approved included re-naming individual planning & zoning, park board and economic development board members.

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