In a special meeting held Monday evening, the Red Oak City Council named economic development director Todd Fuller as the interim city manager. The council also unanimously accepted the resignation of Red Oak Mayor Ron Bryce.
“I think we’re blessed with Todd Fuller, who is certainly qualified and he adds a lot of common sense to his duties,” councilman Casey Hargrove said. “I move to nominate him as acting interim city manager.”
The motion passed unanimously.
The actions come after last Tuesday’s special meeting, in which the city council voted to terminate the employment of Ken Pfeifer from the position of city manager, a position he had held for the last 12 years.
“I’m disappointed in this item — as a fairly new mayor one of the bright spots is working with Mr. Pfeifer,” said Bryce of the agenda item that Tuesday calling for discussion and evaluation of the employment of the city manager. “I can’t imagine that we would do better than Ken in the future. I commend him for being a man of integrity. He’s been a by-the-book kind of guy.”
“I think the city has outgrown Ken,” said councilman Casey Hargrove. “His leadership has been poor lately. I’ve lost confidence in him as a city manager.”
Councilman Eric Smith said that after his election and re-election into the council, he spoke with the citizens of Red Oak and felt that they were calling for a change.
“I spoke with the citizens. I think it’s time for a change. We need new blood,” Smith said. “It has nothing to do with him being unethical. It has nothing to do with Ken — I consider him a good city manager and a friend.”
Councilman Scott Lindsey reminded the council and the standing room only crowd of Pfeifer’s accomplishments during his tenure at Red Oak.
“I’ve lost a lot of sleep since this item came in,” Lindsey said, adding that he hoped other members of the council had thought long and hard about the item as well. “We’ve dropped our tax rate over the last 12 years. We’ve got Dallas Water coming in. I believe in what he’s done.”
Lindsey also questioned the timing of the termination, with the council and city departments planning the fiscal year 2008 budget.
“I’m concerned about terminating our city manager during a crucial time in planning our budget. It’s going to take time to get a new city manager. I don’t know how to do a budget,” Lindsey said. “Y’all have been embarrassing me a lot during the last week. We need to give him the opportunity to keep doing what he’s doing.
“This is politics and it’s wrong and it needs to stop,” Lindsey said.
Hargrove moved for the termination of the city manager effective July 1 and charged the human resources director to begin the search, narrow candidates down to five and have a five-person committee appointed by the council review the candidates. Goodwyn seconded the motion. The motion passed 3-2, with Lindsey and Andy Bell dissenting.
“It has been a privilege to serve Red Oak and its citizens for the past 12-plus years. Great leadership has been provided by Mayor Ron Bryce and former mayors Little, Brown and Foster,” Pfeifer said in a letter to the Chronicle. “I wish to thank those councilmembers who have supported my efforts to improve our city and our excellent city employees for their hard work and support over the years. Many good things have been accomplished during my tenure as city manager.”
The council also voted to terminate the city attorney, Betsy Elam with Taylor, Olson, Adkins, Sralla & Elam, L.L.P., at the Tuesday, June 19 meeting, and directed the human resources director to begin the search for a new attorney.
“We had some legal advice that was out of tune with the intent of the law,” Hargrove said of the agenda item calling for discussion and evaluation of the employment of the city attorney.
“Information can be given by an attorney but it is the responsibility of the council to make the decision,” Lindsey said. “I just find it hard to constantly throw responsibility on everyone else. If we’re elected representatives, we need to stop throwing responsibility on everyone else. Getting rid of an attorney firm that is widely recognized as one of the top firms in the Metroplex … we have lawsuits taking place right now and we have no one in place.”
Smith, Hargrove and Goodwyn voted for the motion to terminate the city attorney, with Lindsey and Bell dissenting.
At the adjournment of the meeting, Pfeifer received a standing ovation from about half of the audience members as he walked out of the council chambers arm-in-arm with his wife.
The next day, Wednesday, June 20, Bryce sent an e-mail to city secretary Judy Grant and council members announcing his resignation.
“I respectfully submit my resignation as mayor of Red Oak. Working for the citizens of Red Oak has been one of the highest honors of my life. But I have no hope of being an effective leader for the remainder of my term in office. I do however want to continue serving the community wherever possible as a private citizen,” Bryce wrote in the e-mail addressed. “Thanks to the city council members and the entire city staff. But most of all I want to thank the people of Red Oak who entrusted me as their mayor for this period of time. My heart’s desire continues to be for the people and families that make up our community. May God richly bless you.”
“I appreciate Mayor Bryce’s dedication and service to this city. He put his heart, mind and soul into this job, and to doing what he believed was right for the city,” councilman Casey Hargrove said. “Politics makes strange bedfellows and even stranger adversaries, and even though I and the Mayor did not see eye to eye on some key issues, I consider Ron a friend and a brother in Christ. I want to thank him and his family for their service to the city of Red Oak.”
“I was really surprised. I guess disappointed. I was looking forward to serving under his leadership and I wish him the best,” said newly elected councilman Andy Bell. “At this point we’ve just got to press forward and try to make the best of the situation.”
Mayor Pro Tem Ben Goodwyn said Bryce had alienated himself from three of the five councilmen in part by funding the campaigns of candidates running against Goodwyn and Hargrove.
“I think we’ve already got leadership back in the city. We’ve got directors with at least a couple of years of experience. Todd Fuller’s been acting assistant, doing a great deal of work for the city for years. I’ve been mayor pro tem for a year. I’ve been a city councilman for three years. Four of our five councilmen have at least three years in experience,” Goodwyn said. “The main thing is to establish our priorities. The No. 1 thing is where we are. We don’t have a clue where we are on our budgets. We could never get a straight answer from (Pfeifer). We don’t know where we are on our projects,” Goodwyn said. “We are going to establish what we are going to do as a council, including development of our new budgets, funding some areas that have been cut to the bone, like National Night Out, and we’ve also got to hire a lawyer, very quickly. We should have that done by the meeting in July, and we’re establishing a committee in order to hire a new city manager.”
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