The Hewitt City Council is sorely lacking in transparency and truth. Even in the face of an audio recording containing incontrovertible evidence of illegal actions, Hewitt’s mayor, Ed Passalugo, continues to deny any misconduct and wrongdoing. And our current city attorney, Mike Dixon, argues that he is providing “solutions.”

However, the reality is that this entire situation has devolved into a quest to blame others rather than hold Mayor Passalugo accountable for his moral turpitude. Mr. Dixon’s own admission of his efforts to “clear” the names of Passalugo and others have many citizens, including myself, doubting Mr. Dixon’s personal and professional integrity and his ability to fairly and honestly represent our city.

Since September and the botched firing of our last city attorney, Mr. Dixon has conducted closet negotiations in attempts to terminate and hire employees for the city of Hewitt. By his own admission, many of these negotiations have commenced without the prior knowledge or direction of the Hewitt City Council. These actions are beyond his appropriate role and in direct conflict with our city charter and the spirit of state open meetings laws.

I have made continued efforts to work with Mr. Dixon but to no avail. My questions and concerns still go unanswered by Mr. Dixon, both via email and at public meetings. I fear he has been deceptive and dishonest in his dealings with me, city staff and others. Yet his actions are continually supported by a 4-2 vote of the council. Just as my original complaint from May 2018 stated, I still have cause to believe Mayor Passalugo and other Hewitt City Council members continue to conduct city business outside of the public view. And now, rather than righting wrongs and ensuring transparency, these clandestine meetings are shielded by the ongoing efforts of Mr. Dixon.

I have witnessed Mr. Dixon attempt to change history by not being truthful in his words and actions against Hewitt city management and city employees. Sadly, it seems that Mr. Dixon has been acting as Ed Passalugo’s de facto personal defense attorney since he was first hired by the council. All of this has been funded by Hewitt citizens, who desperately seek transparency and accountability — surely proven by the fact that no less than eight candidates ran for a solitary council post last year. More worrisome: harassment claims filed by two female employees. I have witnessed Mayor Passalugo’s actions toward these women and I know these claims are accurate and valid. But Mr. Dixon seems determined to mislead the public through misstatements and inaccuracies in his attempt to be a “fixer.” Mr. Dixon is now preparing a new report to “summarize” the investigation of employee claims, which was conducted by Julia Gannaway of Ross & Gannaway, PLLC, and was completed in June 2018. It is clear from the audio recording of Passalugo, exposed by the Waco Tribune-Herald, that Passalugo has been lying to everyone for months regarding his attempts to conduct city business outside public view. What’s certain is that Hewitt taxpayers have already paid for a thorough investigation by a third-party law firm.

Now Mr. Dixon appears to be charging exorbitant fees for duplicated work. Based on Mr. Dixon’s own words, I believe he intends to cherry-pick portions of the Gannaway report for public release in an attempt to absolve Ed Passalugo from wrongdoing. To be sure, I do not believe he is able to provide a fair and complete accounting of all that has transpired.

I have no confidence in any report provided by Mike Dixon. To comply with citizens’ demands of how their tax dollars are spent and a report of findings, I call for Ms. Gannaway’s report to be made public in its entirety. In fact, I am willing to personally pay her legal fees to provide this report to the public to avoid further taxpayer expense. Additionally, I publicly seek a waiver of attorney/client privilege to allow former City Attorney Charlie Buenger and Ms. Gannaway to provide the facts directly to the public in the next few weeks. Realistically, I do not see Mr. Dixon being in favor of a full release of the facts. It simply would not help him continue his quest to change history and blame the victims.

Steve Fortenberry is mayor pro tem of the city of Hewitt. He owns and operates Fortenberry Insurance Agency. While living in Hewitt, Fortenberry has served on the Hewitt Police Officers Civil Service Commission.