At the Ballinger city council special session on Saturday, January 10th, the city council appointed KRUN general manager Jeff Smith to fill the position vacated by councilman Jason Gore when he resigned on January 6th.
Smith was a vocal critic of former mayor Sam Mallory and has attended city council meetings and spoken out on a myriad of issues. Smith has used his morning radio show to bring attention to the city financial issues that began under former Ballinger city manager Bryan Grimes. One of his biggest crusades was his investigation into former mayor Sam Mallory. During his investigation, Smith found that Mallory and Grimes had attended certified pool operator (CPO) training before the matter even went to bid. Smith was able to get cancelled checks for training and other evidence. Smith notified the Texas Rangers who declined to investigate the matter. Texas Ranger Jason Shea was investigating the city CD funds and questioned Grimes about the CPO deal. In his report Shea says that what was done with the CPO was against the law. He wrote in his report that once Mallory and Grimes found that their actions did violate the law, they immediately nullified the contract. Smith said that the payments to Mallory totaled about $22,000.
There were 2 people being considered for the council seat: Smith and Mike Riley. Both were allowed to stand and make a case for their selection. Riley is a well-respected businessman and is involved in many of the groups around town. He felt that his background would be beneficial if he was selected to serve on the council. Smith felt that his background as the overall manager of housing on Dyess Air Force base and other experience would help on council. Both were considered worthy choices to fill Gore’s vacated council seat. Councilman Rick Morrish made a motion to appoint Riley but neither councilwoman Kristi Goetz nor mayor Seymore seconded the motion. Then Goetz nominated Smith for the seat. Morrish disagreed, “No member of the media needs to serve on this council.” Many people within the community, mostly former council members, have felt like the media have been inaccurate in their reporting. But, it was Smith’s investigation into the CPO contract that brought it to light, and the contract was ultimately deemed illegal. It was the Runnels County Register’s Freedom of Information requests that unveiled the audit information, city spending, CPA concerns, credit card abuse, Amazon abuse and thousands of dollars spent on travel by former city manager Bryan Grimes, employees and former city council members. All documents, over 1000 pages, have been uploaded to the newspaper Facebook page over the last 18 months. Smith told Morrish that he understood his concerns but that nothing that was said in executive session would be repeated by him on his show or otherwise.
Ultimately mayor Seymore agreed with Goetz’s nomination and Smith was appointed to the position after being sworn in by city secretary Bonita Shields. Smith said that he is ready to get to work, “Honestly, it’s like what I said when I stood up here and said that it’s hard. It’s a job that you want, that doesn’t pay much, that is more stressful than your current job and you already have one boss mad at you. It’s really all about Ballinger. It honestly is. I’ve said from day one that it’s all about Ballinger. My business depends on Ballinger succeeding. I fully support what the council did with the termination of former city manager Tommy Turney. There were things there, in my mind, that were unavoidable, such as everything being in arrears. It should have never got to the point where we were threatened with the removal of the water deal. The fact that it even got close to that, something of that gravity, it should have never gotten to that point. But, I’m excited to be on the council and I’m looking forward to serving the people of Ballinger.”