Grievance alleges interference, pressure from Hall

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Editor’s Note: After obtaining a copy of a grievance filed by Maverick Campbell, the decision was made to publish a synopsis of the allegations because the City refused to deal with the issue either by providing the document to The Independent or addressing the very serious accusations publicly. Mayor Rick Hall denies all allegations in the grievance, and the City Council has chosen to not respond in what appears to be an effort to keep the accusations from the public.

By MIKE EDDLEMAN

In early April, former Police Chief Maverick Campbell filed a grievance with the City of Liberty Hill in an effort to be reinstated after being terminated a month before.

In filing that grievance, Campbell argued he was terminated not because of the incident at a New Jersey conference cited by the City Council in its final decision in March, but because of growing differences between himself and Mayor Rick Hall over a lengthy list of alleged meddling and questionable actions by Hall in his involvement with the department.

The City hired an independent investigator at the request of Campbell’s attorney Tiger Hanner to review the termination, and according to the subsequent report, the termination was found to be justified. But neither the investigator or the Council ever considered or discussed the lengthy statement from Campbell included in the grievance.

The Independent has obtained a copy of the grievance, which outlines in detail alleged efforts by Hall to get involved in the operations of the police department, dating back to when he was campaigning before he was elected mayor in 2018.

While Campbell said he initially appreciated what he considered greater interest and support for the department, he said the behavior and actions began to change as Hall spent more time with the department and its officers.

Campbell claimed that Hall asked, and later made threats over Campbell’s job, demanding to be sent through the police academy, and even asked that a light bar be purchased for his vehicle — requests that Campbell said he refused.

The statement claims Hall began going on regular ride alongs with officers, as often as three times a week and at all hours. Despite the department having a policy for ride alongs, Campbell said Hallhave officers pick him up. Campbell said he addressed the issue of excessive and unscheduled ride alongs that did not adhere to department policy, and Hall allegedly responded by saying it would be best for Campbell’s job if he just allowed him to continue riding when he wanted to.

The grievance claims officers were often called directly by Hall for rides for him or his spouse at all hours of the day.

Without addressing any specific allegations, Hall has categorically denied there is any truth to the claims made by Campbell in his grievance.

“I can tell you this, that the comments made in there are not valid,” Hall said in a previous interview regarding the grievance. “At the initial point some of these comments were made, Becky (Wilkins) spoke to every one of the employees and there was no comments from any of the employees that came remotely close to all that. This is the typical thing that happens with a disgruntled employee, or ex-employee trying to divert the real things from them to someone else to try to discredit somebody else when they’re the ones in trouble.”

Hall reiterated his belief that if the allegations were true they would have been made previously.

“In my opinion, when you bring up something that has supposedly happened for 18 to 20 months, after you’re terminated, but nothing is said before, then to me it looks like a witch hunt,” Hall said. “If any of it, even a small piece of it has any truth behind it, why wasn’t something said before?”

Ride along trouble
In one alleged incident in particular, which led The Independent to submit multiple Freedom of Information requests for police video footage, Hall is said to have been on a ride along with Officer Jeff Farmer during a pursuit where he used inappropriate language and was seen accessing the computer system in the vehicle.

Campbell writes in his statement, “Another incident involved a motorcycle pursuit where Lt. Ringstaff was reviewing body and car camera video to make copies at the request of the FBI for their follow up investigation in a separate case. Lt. Ringstaff brought a concern to me about the Mayor’s behavior as the rider with officer Farmer. I had serious concerns too. The Mayor was seen and heard in the body cam footage using profanity toward other agencies as to why they weren’t there to help, made some very inappropriate comments and is seen accessing the computer terminal as an unauthorized user.”

The City has acknowledged the existence of the video in question but to date has not released it to The Independent.

The newspaper has obtained a number of text messages between various members of the police department that verify the concern among staff over the excessive ride alongs and Hall acting “out of line”.

Campbell said Hall “bullied” him and instructed him not to release any video with him using profanity, claiming that Lt. Ringstaff was digging things up to stop Hall’s ride along privileges.

The grievance states that Hall carried his personal firearm while on these ride alongs, and detailed an alleged incident where Hall had “detained” a driver on US 183.

“There was a very concerning incident which I recall that later followed. I believe was last year or in 2018 where Hall called me and said he had two suspects detained possibly DWI and drugs involved on 183 north of the junction just outside city limits. I asked him what he meant and if he had called 911. He yelled at me and said no he had not and that’s why he was calling me to send an officer. I asked Hall what he meant by detained and he said he made them sit on the side of the shoulder and explained he had stopped to do a ‘motorist assist’ when he suspected DWI and drugs were involved. I asked Hall if he was armed and he said he was.”

Campbell said the officer sent to respond was David Bonessi and the sheriff’s department was notified.

Internal matters
According to Campbell, Hall and then newly-elected Council member Steve McIntosh became more and more involved in police department business.

“He and McIntosh began telling me how to operate my department and the Mayor kept reminding me he was my boss and he could fire me anytime. He began telling me what equipment to order, how to run my shifts, how to deploy my staff at events.”

Campbell claimed that the two spent more and more time at the department, and tried to get involved in personnel and disciplinary matters.

“(Hall) would tell me numerous times to get rid of Lt. Ringstaff, David Ahr and had issues with them. He and Becky Wilkins tried to interfere with the lieutenant promotion process and said I should not promote Lt. Graeter.”

In one text, an officer wrote “….it’s crazy how deep he gets involved in things that a normal Mayor would not even consider personal involvement in.”

When the department moved to take disciplinary action against Officer Farmer, who Hall had been in a patrol vehicle with on a ride along during the pursuit cited earlier in the grievance, Campbell said Hall again tried to intervene.

“Hall egregiously interfered with a department internal affairs investigation of Officer Farmer who violated chain of command in addition to what he was being investigated for. Hall threatened me if I got rid of Officer Farmer, I would not have a job. His words were, ‘Be careful, remember who you work for and your policies don’t overrule city policy.’”

In another text related to the personnel situation with Farmer, an officer wrote, “Mayor can’t make an educated decision about anything, not knowing the real person or quality of work.”

The grievance also details previous allegations reported by The Independent regarding Hall carrying a firearm in public, being intoxicated in public, and being threatening to Campbell and other staff members.

Campbell detailed an allegation from the City staff retreat at Canyon of the Eagles in January where he claims Hall threatened his two sons, using a racially derogatory term in reference to them and telling them he would hang them both by their necks from a tree.

A criminal complaint regarding this incident was filed by Campbell in Burnet County in April and his two sons are awaiting a pending Child Advocacy Forensic Interview as part of the investigation. The investigation is still pending.

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