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2016-06-09

Marshals' fate in admin hands

By Sandy Jennings BCC Staff Writer

In what played out to be much ado about nothing, a swarm of anxious spectators crowded the locked front door of the City of Bandera Municipal Building at 5:45 pm, Monday, June 6.
City council had called a special executive meeting to “consult with Attorney, and 551.074, Personnel Matters to deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal and/or to hear a complaint or charge about: 1. Deputy City Marshal Willie Smith 2. City Marshal Will Dietrich.”
The incident in question happened on May 16, when Dietrich tasered senior citizen, Mary Montes, after she failed to identify herself. Smith had called on Dietrich for backup. The incident was reported in the Bandera County Courier on May 19 and 26. The initial confrontation concerned two alleged out-of-compliance banners belonging to the store in which Montes was working at the time.
Most of the spectators supported the marshals, believing that action would be taken – even though, according to Council member Rebeca Gibson, the session was scheduled as a “non-action” meeting.
“I felt it was a matter of public interest,” Gibson said. “The reason I asked for a meeting was to understand what I had read in the newspaper – not to make a decision.”
Gibson was not alone, fellow council member Jim Hannah also saw the need for the council to review the events that had taken place.
“When I learned of her (Gibson’s) request, I thought it would be good for all of us to listen to the tape,” Hannah said.
With two members requesting a meeting, City Administrator Michael Garr was required to poll council members for a required third request.
“We were working on things concerning the flood when I was approached by our city administrator and he brought it to my attention that two council members were requesting a meeting concerning the incident and I gave my consent to be the third request,” Councilman Cindy Coffey said.
Ironically, it was Coffey who suffered a pummel of insults and accusations by Dietrich, his followers and some city employees, on a social media public FB page called BANDERA COUNTY SPEAKS.
On the page, Sue Sides stated, “One council woman wants to be miss politically correct and fire the officers for doing their job.”
When another person asked the name of the councilwoman, Laurie Sturgis stated, “Cindy Coffey.”
Sturgis posted the meeting notice and made pleas for people to show up and support the marshals. Dietrich also made a plea for support, noting that the meeting would held in the open.
When asked why he changed the meeting from a closed executive session, he said, “I believe this is an attack on my credibility and I believe the citizens of Bandera have the right to hear the facts.”
Additionally, when asked about the personal attack on Coffey on social media pages, Dietrich stated that he believed Coffey was to blame for calling the meeting. He also felt that she was upset over an interview that he did with Channel 5 News, concerning the flood.
Dietrich also stated that he was tired of the “back door, shady way of doing things and it needed to stop,” noting this was an epidemic affecting this entire nation.
Although Dietrich was told it was not Coffey who had requested the meeting, he stood firm in his beliefs. “I only believe some of what I hear and all of what I see,” Dietrich said, adding somewhat enigmatically, “As strange as Bandera is, I’m not sure there’s any other place I’d like to be.”
Interestingly, the many comments regarding the media, history of Coffey and the tasering incident posted on the social media page had disappeared between 11 pm, June 6 and 5 am, Tuesday June 7.
Montes sat alone among the crowd. Although she did not make a statement, Montes confirmed that she had retained an attorney and would be taking legal action.
Mayor John Hegemier called the meeting to order a little after 6 pm, read the agenda and called for the council to enter an executive session with their attorney. Spectators were asked to leave the meeting room.
“That’s bullshit,” one person yelled out. “They should have already talked to their attorney.”
The crowd held steadfast at the door until allowed back in – almost two hours later. Hegemier immediately reconvened the meeting into open session.
“I recommend that City Administrator Mike Garr proceed with any personnel action he deems necessary in accordance with State law, state code and personnel policies of the city of Bandera and report back to the city council any actions deemed necessary,” Hegemier said.
After the meeting was adjourned, spectators immediately started asking questions. After herding the crowd to the back, Dietrich spoke to them and loud cheers and applause erupted. Simultaneously Montes spoke to council members and Hegemier clarified his statement for the media.
“I haven’t listened to the tapes, yet,” Hannah said. “He’s (Garr) going to listen to the tapes and he’ll call us in one by one to listen to the tape (of the incident).” Garr’s decision will be presented to the council for approval and will then be presented to the public and media at a scheduled council meeting. Hegemier was referring to audio and video tapes supplied by city law enforcement officers.
Garr was asked for a timeline of events concerning his investigation and decision.
“I’m still trying to repair the city, I am under no deadline,” Garr said. “I just reopened the park today – so there’s some good news.”