EDITORIAL: Liberty Hill deserves to know

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Three different times over the last four months the Liberty Hill City Council has appeared poised to take a stand against problems it perceives regarding how Mayor Rick Hall is conducting business.

Three times everyone has walked out of a meeting with no resolution. Three different times, residents of Liberty Hill have been left to wonder if their council is operating as it should.

In the strongest language to date, the agenda for Monday’s meeting included the following item: “Discuss and consider reports against Mayor Hall for explosive conduct, inappropriate language, intimidating conduct and for threatening behavior toward a City Council member and staff.”

As he has done in the past, Hall maneuvered through the issue, having it moved to executive session where it was discussed in private Monday before the Council emerged and took no action – again.

The same occurred in May and July when the Council wanted to consider an ordinance outlining the powers and duties of the Mayor.

If there is a personality issue on the Council, a conflict or inability to conduct business in the proper manner, voters deserve to know what it is and why it can’t be resolved.

Having closed door, secret discussions on the matter has shown no sign of working to curb a problem. Based on the language on the latest agenda, it appears something far more serious is being dealt with than making sure the Mayor knows how city business should be conducted.

It can only be presumed that it was no coincidence that a discussion of an ethics code for city officials directly preceded the agenda item on the Mayor’s conduct at Monday’s meeting.

Concerns have been raised by Council members, primarily in indirect ways, about how the Mayor conducts business. The comments leave others at the meetings to try and connect the dots to get the full picture.

The full picture is the business of residents of Liberty Hill.

Not only do agenda items such as this raise concerns over professionalism and proper conduct, but they lead the community to wonder if the Council is truly being effective in taking care of city business.

Not everyone has to agree, but everyone has to work together, compromise, and do so in a professional, respectful manner. If that is not happening, the Council should take public steps to make sure it does.

Do we have an ethics problem on the Liberty Hill City Council? Should residents be concerned about the actions of the Mayor?

To date, the answers to these questions seem to be guarded little secrets that elected officials are only willing to discuss in private. Hiding behind the closed doors of executive session may shield conversations between elected officials, but it shouldn’t be used as a tool to defray accountability to the public.

The voters have a right to know if those they elected are behaving unprofessionally, and they are right to expect that others will be diligent to correct any problems. That means having the courage to speak out rather than complain privately.

The newspaper has made repeated efforts to obtain information from Council members regarding their problems with the Mayor. Our questions are met with excuses like they “can’t talk about things discussed in executive session”. Other times, we’ve been told that “it’s no big deal”, or “it’s taken care of”.

Clearly, “explosive conduct, inappropriate language, intimidating conduct” and “threatening behavior toward a City Council member and staff” indicate the contrary.

Today, only the Council, Mayor, City Attorney and staff members know the secrets, but the rest of Liberty Hill deserves to know as well.

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