Animal control employee, councilman resolve complaint

(Listen to the three recordings between Bryant and the Somervell County

Sheriff’s Department on our Facebook page or at http://soundcloud.com/glen-rose-current.)

Oct. 16, 2012

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

(Updated with new information and reaction from Cathrine Peck)

Glen Rose City Councilman Chris Bryant and a city animal control employee Monday reached an agreement to resolve a dispute over the removal of a dead cat from the street in front of Bryant’s home.

Before a crowded audience at the monthly Glen Rose City Council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Bob Stricklin read a brief statement about the first agenda item, which had been removed shortly before the meeting:

“Cathrine Peck and Councilperson Chris Bryant have come to a mutual agreement resolution. Ms. Peck has withdrawn her grievance from the agenda.

“We all need to read our Code of Conduct and understand how we are to interact with each other and the city staff, and our actions are not outside of our authority,” Stricklin added. “Our only ability to change any rule or procedure of law is as a collective group, not as an individual.”

Stricklin then said it was his hope that the matter could be closed and the council could move onto other city business.

However, Councilman Dennis Moore said he had a question.

“I’m not sure the last half of that” has been resolved, he said.

“In my mind and the mind of the city attorney and in the mind of the city administrator, Ken West, it has been resolved,” Stricklin replied.

Bryant did not make any additional comments to the council. Earlier that afternoon, Peck said she, Bryant, Stricklin and City Administrator Ken West met in West’s office and Bryant made an apology.

Peck was not present at the council meeting. Reached for comment on Tuesday, Peck — who is 23 and has worked for animal control since July 2011 — said that she was “disappointed” that there was no further discussion about the issue at the meeting.

“After everything he said on the Internet and stuff, I was kind of hoping he was going to have to face everything,” Peck said. “I was kind of disappointed. Oh well.”

Peck said, however, that her complaint will remain on record.

After announcing the resolution, the council then moved on to the next two items and approved the addition of economic development responsibilities to Convention & Visitors Bureau Billy Huckaby’s job (check back with the Current for more on that story) and the language for an evaluation form for the city administrator’s six-month job review.

Huckaby will receive $15,000 from the city and $15,000 from Somervell County. The funding is for one year to launch a joint city-county economic development program to attract more businesses to the area.

As the Glen Rose Current first reported last week, Peck filed the complaint against Bryant on Sept. 28 (see full story below). In it, she said that an incident on Saturday, Sept. 22, involving an injured and, later, dead, cat prompted the complaint. (See a copy of the complaint by clicking on the “Documents” tab above.)

According to the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by the Glen Rose Current under the Texas Open Records Act, Bryant contacted the Somervell County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher to report an injured cat in front of his home. He asked for the number of the on-call Animal Control Department employee on duty, which was Peck.

In the Somervell County Sheriff’s Department call report, the dispatcher advised him that the office did not give out numbers without authorization. (See the report posted in “Documents” as well.) The Current filed an Open Records Act request with the sheriff’s department to obtain a copy of the recordings. Anyone who wants to listen to the three calls can do so by going to http://soundcloud.com/glen-rose-current.

During the first call, Bryant told the dispatcher that a cat was injured and “flopping around” in the street and asked for someone from animal control to come take care of it. In the second call, Bryant told the dispatcher the cat had died and he had moved it out of the street. He also repeatedly told her that he was on the city council, that he was animal control’s “boss” and that the animal control person on call “would” come pick up the dead cat although the dispatcher told him it would require overtime pay.

He also demanded the phone number of the animal control employee on duty. When the dispatcher told him she was not allowed to give out that information, he asked her why she was refusing a city official, according to the recording.

“Mr. Bryant advised that he is on the council and that if I do not give him the number that he will contract Greg (Sheriff Greg Doyle) and tell him I refused to give him the number,” the dispatcher wrote in the report. “I put Mr. Bryant on hold and made contact with (Doyle) and he advised to go ahead and give the number to Mr. Bryant.”

In her complaint, Peck said she told Bryant when he called her that the animal pickup ” was no longer an emergency. I am not authorized to p/u (pick up) dead animals on the weekends/after hours.”

Peck also said that the city’s policy is that “we do not go out on dead animal calls during nonworking hours.” Bryant used phrases, Peck said, such as, “Are you refusing a council member?” and “Well, Cat, this is not going to look good come Monday morning.”

Peck further said in the complaint she hoped it would “lead to an eye opener for all as to how he (Bryant) has tried to bully his way around to get what he wants and even goes to the point of using his position in council that he sees it is okay for him to get special privileges.”

Asked to respond last week, Bryant denied all the allegations and said Peck told him she was “not available” to pick up the cat. He said he did not “bully” her by telling her he was her boss or threaten her job.

He further said he went through “all the ordinances” and could not find any stated city policy about not picking up dead animals on weekends or after regular work hours. Bryant said he ended up burying the calico cat.

The City of Glen Rose has a “Code of Conduct for Elected Officials” that defines the mayor’s, mayor pro tem’s and council members’ roles and responsibilities. In the section on council conduct with city staff, the code makes it clear that elected officials set policy and city staff “implement and administer the Council’s policies. Therefore, every effort should be made to be cooperative and show mutual respect for the contributions made by each individual for the good of the community,” the code states.

It further calls for council members to “treat all staff as professionals,” “limit contact to specific city staff” — namely the city administrator or city superintendent — not to disrupt city staff from their jobs, never publicly criticize a city employee, not to get involved in administrative functions and to “to limit requests for staff support.”

According to the code, disciplinary action for council members found in violation can include, but is not limited to, “discussing and counseling the individual on the violations; recommending sanction to the full Council to consider in a public meeting; or forming a Council ad hoc subcommittee to review the allegation, the investigation and its findings, as well as to recommend sanction options for Council consideration.”

Bryant said his idea was to move the city forward to “seven-day compliance” when it came to removing dead animals from city streets and to make sure that rules and regulations were followed.

“The city’s tax dollars should be utilized in the best way possible,” he said.

Bryant added he supported the city’s Animal Control Department ” 100 percent.”

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