Wendell McLeod, who ran the Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp. for more than 20 years, was fired Dec. 1 from his position as Water Utility Operator for the City of Liberty Hill.
City Manager Manuel De La Rosa told The Independent this week that he had the support of the City Council when he made the decision to discharge McLeod “for cause.”
De La Rosa would not say why he had terminated McLeod, nor would he release personnel records, which he said contained documentation to support the decision. He said the personnel records were protected documents under Texas Open Records Act.
McLeod, former general manager of the LHWSC, was hired by the City in July as water utility operator as part of a transfer agreement between the City and the LHWSC. He was given a three-year employment contract that included a provision stating he could not be terminated without cause.
However, that contract was voided by a settlement agreement Sept. 27 in the City’s lawsuit against the LHWSC. Both the Council and the LHWSC Board of Directors approved the document that released the City of its obligation to continue to employ McLeod and his wife, Mary Ann. A District Judge approved the settlement agreement days later.
“As a city employee, he can appeal to the City Council if he believes he was terminated without cause,” said De La Rosa. “Every employee has the right to due process, but that doesn’t mean the Council is required to listen to the appeal.”
De La Rosa said utility operators employed by Severn Trent will fill the duties of McLeod until such time as the utility department can be restructured. He said there is no time frame for that and filling the position is not high on the immediate priority list.
“Outsourcing is the least expensive when compared to hiring personnel because of the cost of benefits,” he said.
De La Rosa said he consulted with some Council members before he met with McLeod last week, and the others were notified a short time later.
“All of them had concerns, but no one questioned me to the extent that I thought I made an error in judgement,” De La Rosa said.
He said he discussed a severance package with McLeod, but McLeod refused it.
Mrs. McLeod is still employed by the City as a clerk.
McLeod, a former member of the City Council and current Secretary-Treasurer of the LHWSC Board of Directors, was the most vocal opponent of the water system’s transfer to the City. The objection he expressed most in public was the uncertainty of his future employment with the City.
The LHWSC continues to exist, but the City now has ownership of its assets.