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Mayhem prevails at city council meeting

By Sandy Jennings BCC Staff Writer

The fates of City of Bandera Marshal Will Dietrich and Deputy Marshal Willie Smith were finally decided at a Thursday, August 4, meeting of city council. However, the decision came after a spectator made a motion to “not take any action against the marshals at this time,” regarding the May tasering of a senior citizen.
During the meeting, council entered a closed executive session to discuss the results of an investigation conducted by City Administrator Michael “Mike” Garr of the marshal’s department with regard to the controversial tasering incident.
After an hour passed and the small crowd had dwindled even more, a solemn-faced Dietrich and council reconvened in open session.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Hannah began by asking if “any of the council members wanted to discuss anything or take any action.” Hannah presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor John Hegemier.
Councilman Cindy Coffey made a motion to adjourn, which was seconded by Councilman Rebeca Gibson. As Hannah took a vote, the restless crowd combusted with questions.
Crowd grows restless
“Wait a minute, what decision did you make?” a spectator asked.
“We didn’t make a decision,” Coffey replied.
“Why?” asked the indignant spectator.
“We didn’t make a decision,” Coffey repeated.
“You can’t just do that!” exclaimed another aggrieved spectator.
Numerous people spoke out, demanding that the council make a statement or take action.
“The statement that I can make is that this executive session should have happened weeks ago,” Hannah said. “A series of events – town gossip – has inflamed the situation.”
“Like you had nothing to do with that,” a spectator yelled.
Speaking methodically, Hannah noted, “The information was no more than gossip. We would have been able to talk all of that out in executive session.”
He continued, “I can tell you all that something’s been accomplished tonight, in that we finally were able to, as a body, not as individuals, with the marshal, speak openly and candidly. I do not believe an incident like that is going to happen again.”
Confusion reigns
The room seemed confused as Gibson took the floor. “I really appreciate the work that Will did in communicating with Mike on the report that was put together. That’s what council wanted to have happen from the beginning –have a sit down talk, a ‘hey what happened’?”
As Gibson continued, she was interrupted by a steady voice from the back of the room asking, “Then why didn’t ya’ll resolve it?”
“It’s resolved. I don’t understand why you keep asking that?” Gibson replied in clear frustration.
A back-and-forth exchange of “no, you didn’t say that” and “yes, that’s what I said” continued until multiple, simultaneous dialogues added to the chaos.
“Is this particular incident closed?” a spectator demanded.
“We don’t have the authority to close a situation of something that happens out of our control,” Gibson answered.
Attorney speaks
A spectator plea was made for city attorney Santee to clarify the council’s responsibility regarding resolution.
Santee explained the council’s right to hold a closed session at any time regarding personnel under Texas Government Code sections 551.071 and 551.074.
“I think what they (council) are telling you is that they were satisfied with the conversation they were able to have with the city marshal and as far as whatever that conversation was, it has been resolved,” Santee said.
“But, I think, Will, or anyone else, will tell you – he understands that if something happens next week, or there’s an annual review or whatever the case may be, this is council’s prerogative and right to have that conversation with him, or any officer, city secretary or treasurer. So that’s what’s taking place.”
After Santee’s explanation, spectators again demanded that council to take action.
Former mayor pro
tem chimes in
In an unprecedented move, former mayor pro tem Suzanne Schauman, who had resigned from city council, spoke from the crowd. She made a motion for council to “put it on record that no action be taken against the marshals in this matter.”
“How do you expect us to do that?” Coffey asked. “We don’t know what the outcome is going to be. You know the other individual has two years to file a complaint.”
Schauman then suggested, “How about ‘there will be no action at this time’?”
Referring to Schauman’s words, Councilman Charlotte Browning said, “I’ll make a motion for what she just said.”
Shaking her head, Coffey stated, “You can’t do that.”
Gibson agreed, noting that a motion wasn’t even necessary as there had already been a previous motion made to adjourn.
Dietrich speaks
Dietrich took the podium, stating that the investigation and anticipated outcome had “taken a toll” on him and his department. With one deputy resigning and another seeking employment elsewhere, Dietrich pleaded for the council to “… put this to rest tonight. Help me out, please. I need your support just like I have the citizens’ support.”
Gibson stated that she made a motion to adjourn with a caveat, saying if council wasn’t going to adjourn they needed to vote and make another motion.
Hannah called for a vote. Coffey and Hannah voted to adjourn.
“I make a motion. Say it again Suzanne,” Browning said.
Murmurs of “No, make your own motion” and “This is wrong” were mumbled by council members. As Browning struggled to find the right words, Hannah said, “A motion has been made to take no action at this time.”
Motion finally made
“Wait a minute, we’re back to where we started!” a spectator said. As Browning said she wanted “it to end,” several spectators called out revised motions.
It was unclear if council stuck to their original motion or allowed spectators again to create their own motion. When two councilmen asked each other what the actual motion was, one admitted, “I don’t know.”
When Hannah asked Coffey if she had voted, she replied, “Yes, I did vote. I said we’ll get rid of it at this time.”
In the end, the motion – whatever it was – had passed by a unanimous vote.