The city council meeting on November 18th was an historic day in Ballinger as Ballinger’s first female mayor, Dawni Seymore, was sworn in. She defeated former mayor Sam Mallory by only 3 votes, 281-278. Mallory was given a plaque from former city councilman Philip Arp. Mallory shook the hand of each city council members, city manager Tommy Turney, city attorney Pat Chesser and city secretary, Bonita Shields. He then sat in the audience and watched the remainder of the council meeting. Jason Gore and Rick Morrish won their respective elections and were sworn in as well.
The emotions at the council meeting were still running high, with approximately 30 people sitting in the audience. Citizen Suzanne Riley was on the agenda and addressed the council regarding the employee grievances. She said that her main concern was how the council sees that just sending Turney to an HR class will fix the way he treated these women. She said that the grievances were not addressed within 10 days. Councilman Gore pointed out that the council only meets every 14 days but that they’d look into emergency meetings in certain situations. He also informed Riley that the council couldn’t discuss any city business outside of the council. They can’t meet up at restaurant or at someone’s house and discuss city business.
Riley said that she had spoken to Turney earlier that day and asked if he had gone to the HR training that was detailed in his reprimand. Tommy addressed Mrs. Riley and said that there were a total of 5 HR classes that he’d be attending. The first one will be the second week in December. Councilwoman Kristi Goetz said that they can’t discuss HR issues and that Tommy is complying with the stipulations lined out in the reprimand. Councilman Rick Morrish said that the council wrote a reprimand for all of the council to sign. Riley said that Turney told her that an employee lied but Riley believes that Turney lied. Riles wasn’t present during any of the alleged situations between Turney and any of the employees but she said that one of the women involved told her the truth, as she believes it to be. Riley stated that the woman who is her friend didn’t lie.
Councilman Bob McDaniel spoke up and said, “This reminds me of the impeachment of Donald Trump. People are not going to be happy until they have Tommy’s head on a platter. People have been against Tommy since he was hired.” McDaniel also pointed out that he has supported Tommy, “Since the beginning.”
The city IT tech, Corey Van Zandt, asked the council what would happen if anyone else had done what Turney did. City attorney Pat Chesser said that they wouldn’t be discussing hypothetical situations. Van Zandt is the employee who secretly (but legally) recorded a conversation with Turney several months ago. He was also one of the employees who had a grievance against Turney. Goetz told everyone that the reprimand that Turney received is subject to the Open Records Act. Chesser addressed Riley, “Tommy was reprimanded and he apologized to the employees. It was the first step in what we hope is a healing process.”
The other aspect of HR classes is that you have to find them, find a date for them and attend them. It’s not likely that someone would be able to book 5 HR classes in other cities in a short period of time.
Linda Maynard was in the audience and said that she supported Tommy. Ginger Turner and several others have supported Turney since the allegations were made.
The council went into Executive Session to discuss complaints against the Ballinger Police Department and against city secretary Bonita Shields.
It was an eventful first day for Seymore but she seems more than ready to tackle the issues that have been plaguing Ballinger the last 14 months. Seymore is a business-minded woman and recently said in an interview, “I’m ready to tackle the tough issues, to make the hard decisions. We need to run this like a business and not run it based on emotions or friendships. There are tough decisions that will have to be made but we must make them if we want to continue moving forward.”