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Lawsuit just more ‘bickering’ by former city leader
by Jason Collins
Dec 17, 2013 | 66 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE – An attorney representing the Beeville City Council says that the former city manager’s suit is a continuation of her bickering about the city leaders and not the action of a whistleblower.

Former City Manager Deborah Ballí filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Beeville last month saying that she was unjustly fired from her position after making known what she considered violations of the city charter and possibly the law.

The city, through its Corpus Christi attorney James McKibben, writes in their filings at the federal courthouse in Corpus Christi, that her allegations are false.

According to the court documents, the final straw before the council voting to fire Ballí in September was her action concerning an easement.

“She had exceeded her authority by attempting to make a conveyance of an interest in city property without getting approval of the council as required by the city charter and as she had been advised to do by the city attorney,” according to documents filed by McKibben. “Plaintiff admitted this action exceeded her authority and that she did not heed the advice of the city attorney. In the meeting on Sept. 10, Ms. Ballí’s attitude by her inappropriate comments to other employees about the City Council, and her executing an easement without council approval, and her failure to perform the tasks assigned was discussed in executive session by the council.

“Ms. Ballí was then invited into executive session, and the mayor advised her he had lost confidence in her ability to do the job...

“She also advised the council that she would have preferred to remain in her position as finance director and that she would understand and respect whatever decision the council would make.

“In open session, a motion was made, and a vote was taken, and Ms. Ballí was terminated from her position.”

Closed-door meetings

In her complaint, filed Nov. 8, Ballí alleges through her attorney, Jon D. Brooks of Corpus Christi, that, “By early July 2013, the plaintiff was concerned that the mayor was violating the city charter and possibly state law by having several closed-door meetings with the city secretary, by taking over city manager job duties and responsibilities with respect to city administration, supervision of city employees and conducting performance evaluations for city employees.”

The city denies allegations that anything sinister was occurring.

Attorneys representing the city, presented the council with their response to these allegations on Dec. 10.

“Due to her inexperience, Plaintiff had at various times complained that both mayors during the time she was city manager had infringed on her powers,” according to the court documents filed by McKibben.

“It is not a violation of the city charter or state law for any member of the council to meet with council appointed employees or to seek information on city operations...

“Defendant further denies that there were ‘several’ closed-door meetings. However sinister this is intended to mean, that it is common within the city for persons having a conversation to close the door so that noise and activity in the hall will not bother them.

“In fact, Plaintiff, at one time, distributed a memo ordering all doors at City Hall to be closed. This policy was later rescinded by Ms. Ballí after several members of the City Council, particularly, Councilman (John) Fulghum, expressed displeasure with the policy.”

Voicing concerns

Ballí also says in her complaint that she made her concerns known to the city attorney.

“The plaintiff met with the city attorney at city hall and reported the violations of law that she believed the mayor and perhaps others were involved in with respect to the mayor conducting closed-door meetings with the city secretary, taking over city manager job duties and responsibilities with respect to city administration, supervision of city employees, and conducting performance evaluations for city employees.”

The city, however, also denies these allegations and says that the problems arose because Ballí did not understand her job duties.

These complaints, according to court documents, “were not made in good faith but as a personal vendetta.”

City alleges a pattern of complaints

The city, in its response, writes, “By early January 2013 and long before the election she complains of, there were obvious difficulties primarily caused by Plaintiff failing to understand her responsibilities and her continued conflict with other council appointed employees including the city secretary.

“Since Ms. Ballí was appointed city manager in July 2012, there have been three different employees in the city secretary position, all of whom were strongly criticized by Ms. Ballí.

“Ms. Balli’s inexperience further necessitated hiring a consultant beginning in January 2013 to advise her in her job...

“There were constant complaints by Ms. Ballí about other employees which were not supported by the facts.

Alleged attempt to fire

Ballí also says in her complaint that the mayor on Aug. 10 attempted to have her removed but could not get the votes.

“Following the meeting, the city attorney told the plaintiff that ‘if you want to keep your job, you need to keep quiet about whatever the mayor is doing.’”

“The quotes herein are intended paraphrasing,” she writes in her complaint.

The city denies there was an attempt by the mayor to have her removed during that meeting.

“The ‘paraphrased’ quote is incorrect,” according to the city document. “Such a statement was never made to her.

“She intentionally makes these complaints with deliberate malicious indifference to the facts.

City’s defense

According to city documents, “Plaintiff’s complaints were not made in good faith but part of an ongoing pattern of complaints and bickering about both mayors and three city secretaries because of her lack of understanding of the relationship between the charter officers of the City of Beeville.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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