Hewitt City Hall

Hewitt City Hall

A concerned group of Hewitt residents is petitioning for answers from Hewitt City Council members about their recent actions.

The effort is forming days after the council voted to remove longtime city attorney Charles Buenger during a special meeting Tuesday morning that lasted less than 10 minutes and revealed little in specific motivations for the move. Several formal complaints also remain outstanding against three council members, with allegations ranging from open meetings violations to gender bias.

A small group of residents gathered Wednesday evening and canvassed neighborhoods to gather support for a special meeting to “openly discuss our concerns” with city council members and City Manager Adam Miles. Beth Oakley, a Hewitt resident of 34 years, helped lead the charge and delivered the petition to the city Thursday.

“There was just a handful of us, but I guess that is where most things start, with just a handful,” Oakley said. “We are now a citizen’s coalition of people who care and want to be informed, because people don’t want to be left in the dark and see our city going in a direction that we never intended.”

The hand-written petition was forwarded to city council members electronically late Thursday afternoon. Miles said he is waiting for direction from the city council on how they plan to address the petition.

A call to Mayor Ed Passalugo was not returned Thursday evening.

Hewitt City Council members will meet with local attorney Mike Dixon, a civil rights and local government attorney with Haley & Olson law firm, on Monday in a special city council meeting. According to the agenda, posted Thursday, the discussion will be held in executive session before council members will consider hiring Dixon.

“I am a fixer and it is what I do. I try to fix things and get everything straightened out,” Dixon said Thursday. “I am not by any means a spring chicken anymore but when I see people that can use some help, I am willing to at least consider it for at least a short term.”

Oakley said she and about 35 residents would like to voice their concern with council members about a barrage of formal complaints from city employees against Passalugo, council member James Vidrine and former council member Kurt Krakowian. There have been no answers from council members, and she finds it inexcusable that the council left the city without legal representation when it fired Buenger, Oakley said.

“We have no voice, no say, and no vote over any of this,” she said. “When you have a person who is leading the council and they aren’t even telling the council everything, that is a scary thought. No wonder some of the people in Hewitt don’t know what is happening, because all the council going into a meeting are kind of blindsided by a major vote that happened on Tuesday.”

Oakley said concerned residents hope to gain a better understanding of the council’s vision, specifically after the handling Tuesday’s meeting. Passalugo hand-delivered the agenda to city staff last week. Other than a call to order and adjournment, the only item on the agenda states “Review, discussion, and consider the engagement of legal services for the City of Hewitt.”

She was shocked at the how little indication the agenda gave of what the meeting would cover, Oakley said.

Council members and Krakowian, who resigned in July, face at least a dozen formal complaints. Four are against Passalugo only, five are against Krakowian only, two are against both Passalugo and Vidrine, and one is against all three.

The council hired a Fort Worth law firm to investigate some of the first complaints employees filed against Passalugo in May. The firm’s findings were handed over to the city’s insurer last month but have not been made public.

Oakley said other Hewitt residents can contact her at 644-3594 to voice their concerns.

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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