By KATE LUDLOW
Suggesting that a mayoral candidate was using the Public Comments portion of the City Council meeting as a “political platform,” Liberty Hill Mayor Michele “Mike” Murphy on Monday ejected Jamie Williamson from the building.
Mrs. Williamson, owner and publisher of The Leader newspaper, was one of two people who were removed from the meeting, while a third was interrupted due to comments the Mayor viewed as “inappropriate.”
Public comments are accepted at the beginning of each regular Council meeting, with each speaker limited to three minutes.
That portion of the meeting became heated Monday when the first speaker, Jim Dillon, was interrupted by the Mayor and warned that his language was “inappropriate.”
Dillon described his 2010 arrest during a Liberty Hill school board meeting and used graphic terms to explain his objection to sex education curriculum being used in the schools. Dillon raised the issue in relation to the ongoing discord between the City and the school district over water and wastewater services to the new high school.
Atlhough warned about his language, the Mayor allowed Dillon to continue speaking until the allotted three minutes had expired.
Ms. Williamson, who is running for Mayor against Council member Jack Harkrider, spoke next and asked the Council to table three items on that evening’s agenda pertaining to the issuance of bonds.
“Mayor, I’d like to use your own words and ask you to show some honor and integrity and wisdom,” Mrs. Williamson said. “Your council did not receive the ordinances and the resolution with their Thursday packet and had no time to review it. $3.75 million is a lot of money to commit…” at which time Mayor Murphy interjected that this was “not a political forum for you to bash the city, please sit down. Now.”
“This has nothing to do with political, Mayor,” Mrs. Williamson replied. “This has items that y’all are going to discuss tonight.”
At that time, Mayor Murphy asked Police Chief Randy Williams to remove Mrs. Williamson from the meeting. As she returned to her seat, Mrs. Williamson handed Councilman Mike Crane a document and announced that it was the City Manger’s contract.
It was unclear if she handed him a copy of his employment with the City of Liberty Hill or his new contract with the City of Jonestown.
As the Council moved on to the next item on the agenda, the Mayor again requested that Chief Williams remove Mrs. Williamson from the meeting and he complied.
On her way out, Mrs. Williamson stated, “She has no right.” She was later seen in her vehicle in the parking lot of the Municipal Court building where the meeting was held.
Later in the meeting, Manager Manuel De La Rosa said the Council had received the documents referenced by Mrs. Williamson in their meeting packets last Thursday.
Minutes after Mrs. Williamson was ejected, local realtor Randy O’Dell was also removed at the direction of the Mayor after he made comments about being unable to hear the Council during discussion of the Consent Agenda items.
After O’Dell was ordered to leave, Mayor Murphy said, “I’m going to ask you guys not to talk during the meeting.”
O’Dell replied, “You know if you talk where we could here you, it might help. You’re whispering back and forth. Y’all make some wise decisions tonight.”
According to Chief Williams, the Mayor is authorized to have disruptive citizens removed from public meetings, though the definition of disruptive is not clearly defined.
“The person who has called the meeting can have someone removed at their discretion,” he said.