Council decision - Frazier on probation, Calaway reinstated
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
Pictured: Bandera City Park Manager Joe Frazier
The number of people waiting in front of the municipal building for an executive session to end dwindled as day segued into twilight and finally into the darkness of a hot spring night.
No, this isn't the beginning of a creative writing class, but rather an account of a four-hour Bandera City Council meeting on Thursday, June 5 - three hours of which were spent in executive session.
The most notable item on council's agenda was, no surprise, the protracted closed session in which council deliberated the appeals of terminated municipal employees, Joe Frazier for alleged sexual harassment and Alan Calaway for reportedly doing private work while on the city's time clock. Barbara L. Quirk, a partner in the law firm of McKamie Krueger, LLP, of Boerne, offered council legal counsel.
On the advice of Public Works Director Mike Cardenas, City Administrator Lamar Schultz had terminated City Park Manager Joe Frazier for allegedly making "inappropriate comments and suggestive gestures toward another city employee (female)." The disciplinary action took place under guidelines set forth in the section dealing with sexual harassment in the City of Bandera Personnel Policy Manual.
Frazier was terminated on May 29; the incidents that led to his dismissal occurred on April 12 and 13.
Chief Deputy Marshal Scott MacNaughton documented the chain of events in an May 27 interoffice memorandum for submission to Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks. This report also included an incident that occurred between Frazier and Deputy Marshal Chris Flores that centered around City Park being opened on Sunday, May 25.
In a report prepared for MacNaughton on May 27, Deputy Marshal Will Dietrich recounted incidents that occurred on April 12 and 13 when Frazier had supposedly made "several inappropriate and offensive comments about Deputy (Amanda) Wedgworth's appearance."
After referring to Wedgworth as a "good looking little girl," Frazier noted that he would be available to assist her if she needed someone to practice frisking, according to both Wedgworth and Dietrich. Later that day, he reiterated his "offer" to Wedgworth. At this time, Frazier apparently assumed the traditional "frisking position" on her side of the patrol vehicle.
As the training officer, Dietrich considered Frazier's behavior "disrespectful, unprofessional and insulting" to Wedgworth. In turn, she told Dietrich she had just left another place of employment where acts of sexual harassment were considered commonplace. Dietrich assured Wedgworth that neither Hicks nor MacNaughton condoned that type of behavior.
As Dietrich put it in his report: "I told (Frazier) I believed (Wedgworth) was competent on frisking, but if she needed practice with defensive tactics or handcuffing, I would remember his offer."
According to Frazier, Wedgworth allegedly told him that when she took a class on the use of a taser, she might need a volunteer for that aspect of her training. "Everybody was laughing and joking about it," Frazier said.
The joking stopped abruptly. MacNaughton turned over the memo to Hicks, opining that Frazier's "inappropriate comments and suggestive gestures toward Deputy Wedgworth blatantly violated City of Bandera personnel policy and crossed the 'proverbial' line." Apparently Wedgworth also felt Frazier had "crossed the line with regard to his actions."
Hicks submitted MacNaughton's report to Cardenas, Frazier's direct supervisor. In Hicks' memorandum to Cardenas, he stated: "Fortunately, for Mr. Frazier, Deputy Marshal Amanda Wedg-worth does not want to pursue that avenue (sexual harassment as a federal offense and a crime in the State of Texas) if he will cease and desist from his demeaning comments towards her."
Eventually MacNaughton's summation ended up with Schultz, who terminated Frazier - apparently after consulting with Cardenas.
The timeline is significant. Dietrich wrote his report about the sexual harassment on May 27. MacNaughton's interoffice memo was dated May 28. Hicks's composed his note to Cardenas on May 29 and Schultz terminated Frazier later that same day. The sexual harassment occurred on April 12 and 13.
When MacNaughton was asked why it took so long for the egregious cases of sexual harassment to come to light, he replied he didn't know. "Deputy Wedgworth never filed a complaint," he said. "I complied an interoffice memo on the incident. I never thought it would lead to Joe's firing."
Ultimately, council decided Frazier's actions toward Wedgworth had violated city policy. However, because of his longtime employment with the city, council opted to "admonish" him with a caveat that he correct his behavior. Frazier was put on unpaid suspension until Monday, June 9, after which he would be subject to a 90-day probationary period. After the 90-day period, Frazier will be re-evaluated by the city administrator, who will report to council. A final decision about Frazier's continued employment will be made at that time.
When Councilman Jim Hannah read the motion on June 5, it included that Frazier would be required to attend classes monitored by Schultz. The classes reportedly encompassed anger management and sexual harassment, e.g., don't do it. However, the statement prepared by attorney Quirk did not include mandated classes for Frazier.
Alan Callaway fared better. Schulz terminated him after Dietrich supplied MacNaughton with two photographs that purportedly showed Callaway painting Frazier's snow cone stand in City Park while on city payroll.
However, city council concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove that accusation and ordered Callaway to be reinstated the next day without any loss of pay.
The incident that both Frazier and MacNaughton pinpointed as precipitating the current kerfuffle can appropriately be described as "Gate-gate." Several reports referenced occasions when Frazier questioned whether deputy marshals had authority to open the park, which means unlocking the front gate.
In particular Flores had opened the park on May 25 when it was "supposed" to be closed due to rain. However, despite the inclement weather, vehicles had lined up at the gate that morning. When Frazier learned that deputies had opened the gate, his reaction was "confrontational," according to Dietrich. For the record, deputies have authority to open City Park.
However, bad blood between city law enforcement and Frazier had apparently been brewing for a while. In his memo to Cardenas, Hicks wrote, in part, "... something must be done about Mr. Frazier. My officers will no longer take his rash and gruff way of speaking to them or any citizen within our earshot."
Two interesting by-products emerged from the brouhaha. The city administrator will now supervise Frazier directly, rather than Cardenas. And, according to a Facebook post, MacNaughton has tendered his resignation to the city, effective July 17. He will be taking an "investigative position."
Stay tuned as more revelations are sure to come.