Council terminates City Secretary



City Secretary Barbara Zwernemann was terminated by a unanimous vote of the City Council Tuesday.

Zwernemann had served as City Secretary since 2014, and has been on administrative leave since May 15.

The Council met in closed session just over two hours, discussing Zwernemann’s employment along with several other items.

In her motion to terminate Zwernemann, Council member Kathy Canady said, “I would like to make a motion we terminate the employment of Barbara Zwernemann as City Secretary of Liberty Hill effective immediately for failure to maintain the City’s records accurately and in a manner required by state law and city code.”

Outside of an additional vote to forward related documentation regarding Zwernemann’s termination to “appropriate law enforcement” there was no other discussion of the decision.

In a statement issued to The Independent Wednesday, Mayor Rick Hall cited “irregular practices” in the city secretary’s office and began an audit of city records. The statement went on to say, “the City Council terminated the employment of city Secretary Barbara Zwernemann for failure to maintain the city’s records consistently and accurately in the manner required by state law and the city code.”

It also said the City would report its findings to law enforcement for investigation of potential criminal acts related to the City’s records.

Hall said the law enforcement agency the information would be forwarded to had not been determined and he would not elaborate on what was found in the audit.

Zwernemann’s response
Zwernemann responded to the termination Wednesday in a statement to The Independent.

“I resigned to Mayor Rick Hall by text on May 16th and asked if Council would consider paying me through July 1st and my vacation pay to which he responded: ‘I am not authorized to negotiate a separation with you at this time but I can take your request to Council at the next meeting for their consideration.’ That’s interesting since Mayor feels he is authorized to do anything else and I see it did not get to Council. However, I will admit (as mentioned on FB) Mayor’s new reply is ‘I just work for Council – I don’t make decisions.’ Council’s action have set me free to speak. My husband, my children and my sisters have asked that I not say thing else about Council’s action until I have time to get it reviewed by legal counsel.”

On March 5, The Independent reported on a letter submitted in September 2018 to then-City Administrator Greg Boatright and City Attorney Dottie Palumbo alleging an angry outburst by Hall and evidence of him carrying a gun in City Hall. That letter was written by Zwernemann and was one of two from city employees on the incident.

“Yes, it is true I had a violent encounter against me on Thursday – September 13, 2018,” Zwernemann wrote in her statement. “Because I had no intent to destroy people, I worked through it, but it was a serious mistake because as I was told then by a wise Council Member ‘he won’t stop this behavior if you don’t stop him.’

“How many people have to be taken under before the voters of Liberty Hill get a clue? How many good candidates for Council – previous election – have to be taken under and traumatized before voters of Liberty Hill get a clue? How many lies and what length does this City Council and Mayor and other new Leadership have to go to in order for voters to get a clue? City Hall has placed people in positions that have never been approved and never been posted and do not exist in City Government – how long does it take for voters of Liberty Hill to get a clue?” she wrote.

“The Bible says follow peace with all men without which no man shall see God – pretty clear. Have you checked to see what really happened with former Police Chief Maverick Campbell? Do you actually know if there was documentation for everything? Did you see if Greg Boatright was set up to be forced to resign? Did you see if Lance Dean was set up and terminated? Who instigated his termination? Or could they have all been threatened and then requested to sign non-disclosure agreements so you (the newspaper) can’t get information.”

New secretary named
Immediately after terminating Zwernemann, the Council voted to hire Deputy City Clerk Nancy Sawyer at an annual salary of $54,500 as the new City Secretary. Sawyer has been with the City just over two years.

“She is just two classes away from becoming a certified city secretary and she has already got the working knowledge of how we operate here in the City and has done a great job in the short period of time she has been here,” Hall said. “The Council just felt like she was the best pick for the position. Barbara was never certified, so this will be the first time in at least six years the City will have a certified city secretary.”