Hewitt City Council voted 4-2 on Monday to approve a separation agreement with Adam Miles, the longtime city manager who had filed formal complaints against the mayor and a councilman.
Under an agreement that Miles had signed before the meeting, Miles will step down immediately and will receive an $88,000 settlement. The council voted unanimously to install Police Chief Jim Devlin as acting city manager.
Councilman James Vidrine made the motion to accept the agreement with Miles, seconded by Councilman Wilbert “Wally” Wachtendorf, who made the motion to appoint Devlin. Also voting for the agreement were Mayor Ed Passalugo and Councilman Travis Bailey, while Steve Fortenberry and Bill Fuller opposed it.
City Attorney Mike Dixon, who arranged for the agreement, said Miles freely signed it.
“It’s not as though Adam is being pushed out,” he said before the vote. “Adam is ready for this to happen, too. ... He wants this. There’s a time for everything. Adam actually did very well by city manager standards because he was here for 10 years and that’s not really a normal thing.”
Miles did not attend Monday and declined comment when contacted Monday afternoon by the Tribune-Herald. He and the city of Hewitt put out a “joint press release” after the vote.
“The city of Hewitt and its city manager, Adam Miles, announce his resignation after 10 years as city manager. The city has benefited from his leadership and wishes him the best in his next endeavors. Adam appreciates the opportunity to have served the city and expects continued growth and prosperity for the community.”
This is the second time in recent months the council has met behind closed doors to discuss Miles’ employment. This time the meeting was held the night before city voters pick one of eight candidates to fill a vacant council seat.
Miles has spent months in the middle of a political upheaval in Hewitt city government that has involved formal complaints by staff and city management against council members and Mayor Passalugo. He himself filed complaints against Passalugo and former Councilman Kurt Krakowian.
Miles wrote a letter to the council in July stating Passalugo wanted to fire him. In that letter he he also alleged Passalugo committed an Open Meetings Act violation, potentially a Class C misdemeanor.
Miles wrote a 1,900-word letter July 22 the day before a closed-door meeting Passalugo called to consider Miles’ employment and discuss various complaints against the mayor and council members, according to emails obtained by the Tribune-Herald.
Miles’ girlfriend, Belinda Kay “Katie” Allgood, the city’s managing director of administration, was one of the first city employees to lodge a complaint against Passalugo over the summer. Allgood also has a pending discrimination complaint filed with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division. The Texas Rangers and the Texas Workforce Commission opened investigations.
Three residents spoke at Monday’s meeting asking the council to not terminate Miles’ employment. Hewitt resident Bob Potter said it would be a sad day for the city to lose Miles.
“In my opinion, he’s been professional, ethical, knowledgeable and competent,” Potter said.
Krakowian, the former councilman, was the sole speaker in favor of ousting Miles, and his comments received some applause. Krakowian noted that his comments were his own and not any member of his family. His wife, Kathy, is running for his vacant seat on the council.
Krakowian said while he was on the council Miles challenged any matter he tried to raise with the budget. He said Miles and Allgood also created an environment within the city that kept employees from airing grievances.
“A few employees have also told me these two are known as the king and queen of the city of Hewitt,” he said. “I think it’s time for the city of Hewitt to clean up this mess and separate employment with Adam Miles.”
Prior to the discussion on Miles’ contract and during the workshop session of the meeting, the city council spent an hour and a half learning about the Texas Open Meetings Act.
“It’s something I think should be done every year,” Dixon said.
Dixon discussed the definition of a “walking quorum” as well as various scenarios that fall under that scenario.
Fortenberry alleged May 17 that Passalugo created “walking quorums” by polling city council members about official business without a called meeting. Texas courts have ruled that elected officials may not circumvent the Texas Open Meetings Act by making decisions on public matters in a series of non-quorum meetings, called a “walking quorum,” according to the Texas Attorney General’s 2018 Open Meetings Handbook.
Walking quorums are often established among elected officials to determine a decision outside a public meeting, Dixon said.
“In this electronic age, it’s really easy to get in trouble in this area,” Dixon said. The mass email issue generally is what I’ve had the most problems with, with cities.”
Dixon urged council members to consult him if they have any questions about the Open Meetings Act.
“I think I’ve kind of scared you all the first night by telling you, well, I won’t use the profanities, but to not talk to each other, not this and that,” Dixon said. “But I meant that mainly to get the point across. There are times when it’s OK to talk.”