Mayor’s conduct comes into question
By SHELLY WILKISON
& MIKE EDDLEMAN
Editor’s Note: It is the policy of The Liberty Hill Independent not to use anonymous sources except in the case where journalists believe a source’s safety is at risk if a name is revealed. Some of the language included below may be too graphic for some readers, but is being reported because it is critical to the story.
Some city employees and their family members say they have witnessed threatening, vulgar and offensive behavior by Mayor Rick Hall in numerous settings in recent months, and not only fear for their safety, but are concerned about the example it sets and the message it sends for the City of Liberty Hill.
In separate interviews with The Independent, four individuals cited two recent events during which the Mayor appeared intoxicated, and became vulgar, loud and belligerent. On both occasions, Hall was wearing a holstered handgun, which they say he wears regularly, including at City Hall and at other city buildings.
At a city staff Christmas Party held at a downtown business, witnesses reported the Mayor was “drinking heavily and was intoxicated. He was stumbling around in the street, and using vulgar language.”
At a City staff and City Council retreat held in January at Canyon of the Eagles Resort near Burnet, the witnesses said employees of the resort at one point requested Mayor Hall to leave an activity at the observatory and return to his room. They said guests complained “he was intoxicated, loud, and his language was offensive.”
One source said resort employees also came to the “fire pit” where city staff, their spouses, council members and children were socializing, and requested Hall to control his voice and his offensive language as others had complained.
The reporter representing The Independent, who was also present, saw Hall wearing the holstered handgun at the retreat.
“He threw words around like, ‘I’m the big d—- daddy of this town’ and ‘I’m the f-ing mayor, I can do whatever I want’,” one source said. “He says these things all the time, including in City Hall.”
Two others, in separate interviews, corroborated the account of the Mayor’s behavior during the incidents at Canyon of the Eagles and the words he used. They said they had heard the exact language as reported to The Independent, and confirmed that employees’ spouses and children were present at the time the reported offensive behavior occurred at the retreat. One source abruptly left as the language became increasingly offensive. Another chose not to participate at the fire pit because the Mayor’s behavior at previous city events was offensive and made the source ashamed on behalf of city residents.
One source reported that as Hall was walking away from the fire pit, he was heard yelling, “I need my blow job”.
For those who shared these accounts with the newspaper, the common theme was a very real concern about Hall’s display of a handgun he wears regularly. They said they have felt uncomfortable, and at times feared for their safety or the safety of others.
Three of four sources who spoke with The Independent said they regularly see Hall carrying a handgun in City facilities, during City functions, and when driving City vehicles.
For some time, the gun was worn at his side, although now it is worn in a back holster.
Hall’s volatile behavior, as he carries a weapon, is “intimidating in the workplace, but especially when he is drinking,” one source reported.
In the City of Liberty Hill’s Employee Handbook that was updated in May 2019, which was provided to The Independent in response to an open records request, there is language prohibiting weapons in the workplace, in city vehicles, or while attending any events as a representative of the City.
Article 23, Section 2 states:
“CONCEALED WEAPONS POLICY
The City of Liberty Hill does not allow any job applicant, employee, contractor, subcontractor, vendor, agent, or representative to possess, use, conceal, carry, or maintain a concealed weapon or handgun on the City’s premises, except as required by law. Such premises include any portion of the building in which the City is housed, any private or public driveway, sidewalk or street, used in connection with the City’s business, and any vehicle used, owned, or leased by the City. The City also prohibits the carrying of a weapon or concealed handgun on your person while you are rendering any services or attending any event or function relating to your employment with the City or conducting any business on the company’s behalf. This prohibition includes carrying or maintaining a concealed weapon or handgun in a City vehicle used in connection with your employment or brought onto the City’s premises.”
The handbook also includes the following consequences for the behavior:
“If the City has a reasonable suspicion at any time that a concealed handgun or weapon has been maintained, carried, or stored in violation of this policy, the City reserves the right to conduct a reasonable search of the person, work area, personal items, or any vehicle in the possession of or subject to the control of such person to investigate whether or not a prohibited weapon is present. Any employee who witnesses the concealment or possession of a weapon or who witnesses a physical or verbal assault involving another person should report it to their supervisor or the human resources department immediately. Violating this policy or refusing to consent to a reasonable search conducted pursuant to this policy may lead to discipline up to and including termination. Compliance with this policy is also a term and condition of continued employment with the City of Liberty Hill.”
The weapons prohibition is also displayed at the entrances to City Hall and other city buildings, in accordance with state law.
The combination of the presence of a weapon and his actions create an uncomfortable situation for staff, who ultimately have no one to go to with concerns or complaints because of the current City hierarchy.
Mayor Hall did not respond to a phone call requesting an interview Friday morning, but in a later text message he wrote that he was in a meeting and requested the newspaper send questions by email. At about the same time, however, Hall responded to a post on The Independent’s Facebook page encouraging one person to “make an appointment to come see me if you would like to see the other side of the story.”
After pushing out longtime City Administrator Greg Boatright in August, the Council voted this week to end a search for a qualified replacement agreeing not to hire a City Administrator. Presently, the Mayor has placed himself at the top of the City Staff hierarchy and has assumed the duties and responsibilities of the Office of City Administrator.
A rare Sunday, special-called City Council meeting has been called with the sole agenda item being personnel action regarding Liberty Hill Police Chief Maverick Campbell.
This story will appear in the March 5 issue of The Independent with additional incidents from other sources as the newspaper seeks to corroborate those allegations. The Independent will again reach out to Hall for comment on the allegations prior to the Wednesday print deadline.