City Manager Rejects Recommendation; Local Official’s Firing Stands

By: Rachel Cox Email
By: Rachel Cox Email
A hearing board said the penalty was too severe, but a local city manager says he won’t reverse his decision to fire an official.

Former Killeen Finance Director Barbara Gonzales at the hearing in April. (Photo by Rachel Cox)

KILLEEN (May 2, 2013) ---Despite a recommendation from a four-member panel of residents that heard testimony last month on an appeal lodged by the city’s former finance director, Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison says he won’t reverse his decision to fire the official.

Barbara Gonzales appealed after she was fired in December 2012.

During a hearing before the Personnel Hearing Board on April 24, Gonzales, Morrison, City Auditor Amanda Wallace, Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin, and Killeen Police Officer Lt. Jeff Donohue all testified about internal and criminal investigations that were conducted into the city's fleet services department.

A memo issued by the board after hearing recommended that Gonzales be reinstated, saying that termination is “a disproportionate penalty.”

(Read The Board’s Memorandum)

But Morrison rejected the recommendation.

“My decision to terminate Barbara Gonzales was based on my supervision of her as finance director culminating in her actions related to the Fleet Services investigation,” he said in a statement released Thursday.

“She admitted to defying the police chief's directive not to go to the Fleet Services building during the investigation, violated the directives of her administrative leave when she attempted to contact an employee multiple times about the Fleet Services investigation and then lied to a police investigator about the attempted contact,” he said.

There was no evidence presented during the hearing refuting any of these facts; therefore, I stand behind my original decision, and I am upholding her termination,” he said.

Gonzales has filed a whistleblower suit against the city.

Her attorney, Bill Aleshire, said in a statement Thursday that “Gonzales was today partially vindicated by the board's unanimous decision that she should be rehired” and that the “board recognized how unfairly Ms. Gonzales was treated by City Manager Morrison," Aleshire said.

"This should be a wake-up call to city officials, that the injustice done to Barbara Gonzales can still be seen through all of the city's chatter and cover-up excuses,” he said.

The internal probe that led to the firing was sparked by a report to police that a fleet services employee was in possession of a stolen city engine.

Later on the investigation revealed 'petty pilfering' was a rampant issue in the department.

Baldwin said during the hearing in April that after the investigation revealed the problem was so widespread he opened an amnesty period for fleet services employees in which several items were later returned.

Gonzales testified she was not aware of some of the thefts that were happening in fleet services, which is led by a director then overseen by the finance director.

During the investigation by the police department Baldwin said that he told Gonzales not to go to the fleet services building on Little Nolan Road in Killeen, but said he later learned she had not followed his orders.

Morrison stated he'd lost confidence in Gonzales as the finance director after she'd disobeyed orders, was insubordinate, was repeatedly late, lied to investigators, and was ineffective with presentations that included quarterly financials.

When asked by the personnel panel if he'd ever informed Gonzales about these issues in writing Morrison said he hadn't and had only brought it to her attention orally.

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