City employee files complaint against Bryant; councilman denies ‘bullying’ animal control worker over dead cat

Updated Oct. 14, 2012

 (The Glen Rose City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 15, mentioned in the final paragraph will be open now rather than held behind closed doors in executive session, according to the meeting agenda posted last Friday.)

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

An employee with the Glen Rose Animal Control Department has filed a complaint against Glen Rose City Councilman Chris Bryant, claiming he “threatened” her job and used his council position to try to “bully” her and “get special privileges” over removing a dead cat on the street in front of his house, public records show.

Bryant denied the allegations, saying he was “just looking out for the citizens’ tax dollars.”

Cathrine Peck filed the complaint with City Administrator Ken West on Sept. 28. 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 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. According to 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 below.) The Current has filed an Open Records Act request with the sheriff’s department to obtain a copy of the recordings.

“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.”

Bryant later called the dispatcher back to advise that the animal had died, according to the call detail report. Peck was on the line with another dispatcher and verified that “since the animal is deceased that she is not authorized overtime to come and pick it up,” the call report stated. “Mr. Bryant became agitated and remarked that he was Animal Control’s boss and they are supposed to come and pick up dead animals on the weekend and after hours and then he hung up on me.”

The purpose of city council members is to set policy, while the job of city employees is to implement those policies. City council members do not have the authority to be a city employee’s boss; that is the role of the city administrator. Peck and her supervisor, Animal Control Officer Tammy Ray, ultimately report to City Administrator West, who was appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the council.

In her complaint, Peck said she told Bryant 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.”

Asked to respond, Bryant said, “She’s on call, but she says she’s not available.”

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

During council discussions about the 2012-2013 city budget, Bryant had expressed concerns to the council that city employees needed to cut down on overtime.

Peck said all that weekend of the cat incident, she was worried that her job was in jeopardy. She notified her supervisor, Tammy Ray, about the incident.

Ray said in a statement filed with the city administrator’s office that she called Bryant after Peck told her what had happened.

“Chris informed me that he was not happy with the situation, that he was (a) council member and wanted the cat picked up,” Ray wrote. She then called West and left a message asking him to call her.

“The situation brought me to tears and caused me quite a bit of anxiety over the weekend,” Peck wrote in her complaint. She added that she and Bryant had been on the phone with other council members and employees that weekend.

“He was on the phone, I suppose, to tell people how upset he was that I would not pick up the dead animal that he complained about,” Peck said in her complaint.

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. (See the pertinent parts of the Code of Conduct above.)

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.”

After last Monday’s regular council meeting, Bryant told the Current that he believed he had not done anything wrong. On that Saturday of the cat incident, Bryant said he had phoned Councilman Johnny Martin to ask him what city policy was on picking up dead animals on weekends. He also phoned Councilwoman Sandra Ramsay, but did not reach her, and City Supervisor Jim Holder “to find out if there was an ordinance and he had no language” pertaining to a policy about picking up dead animals on city streets on weekends and after regular working hours.

Bryant further 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.”

Peck 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.”

She went on to say that if the bullying continued toward her or her job, she would seek an attorney.

The council scheduled an executive session at the end of Monday’s regular monthly meeting to discuss the incident. But Bryant raised a question about the wording of the executive session agenda, saying that “personnel items” was not specific enough.  City Attorney Andrew Lucas agreed, saying the agenda item was not “legally written.”

“This is the same thing I’ve seen before,” Ramsay said to Lucas.

“If we’ve done it like that in the past, it needs to be corrected,” Lucas replied.

The city council and Somervell County Commissioners Court have frequently used the term “personnel matters” on their agendas to describe the justification for going into an executive session that’s closed to the public.

Under the Texas Open Meetings Act, governmental bodies may go into closed sessions to discuss a limited number of items, including “personnel matters,” such as the “appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of a public officer or employee,” or to hear a complaint or charge against an officer or employee. This does not apply “if the officer or employee who is the subject of the deliberation or hearing requests a public hearing,” such as Darrell Webb, former city code enforcement, did on June 15, 2010, when Bryant accused him of not doing his job and wanted him fired. Bryant took it upon himself at times to write code enforcement violation tickets.

The council has set a special meeting to discuss the complaint against Bryant in executive session on Monday, Oct. 15, at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>