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Rowlett citizens pack Council chambers to show anger, support for Mayor

ROWLETT – Nearly 100 citizens packed the Rowlett City Council chambers Tuesday night to show their anger with and support for embattled second-term Mayor John Harper.

The standing-room-only crowd was responding to an item which Mayor Pro Tem Todd Gottel had placed on the regularly-scheduled meeting agenda calling for “consideration and action regarding communications and actions of mayor, town hall meetings, and external/public communications.”

Gottel told the crowd he did so because:  “As a group we can’t do business like this anymore,” referring to the war of words which has recently gone public between Mayor Harper and Rowlett City Manager Lynda Humble, plus the six members of the Council, whom the Mayor has stated too often  sides with her 6-1 against him on City matters.

Wearing pink “Resign Now” cards pinned to their clothing and carrying signs with such messages as “Time to Go” and “Go Back to Cooper,” more than half of the crowd was clearly responding to the Mayor’s recent comment that he will likely resign soon if enough people don’t want him to remain in office.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Mayor was not present at the meeting because it was later discovered he was in South Carolina, after responding to what he told TheRockwallNews.com by phone after the meeting was his son’s urgent plea for help. Harper said that he thought the Council would announce why he was absent, stating the he had emailed them earlier in the day. Gottel said he did not receive the message until after the meeting.

Of course, the Mayor had also issued a statement at his March 31 “Breakfast with the Mayor” that the Council’s April 5 agenda “amounts to a political lynching.” Some citizens speculated he was not there to avoid it.

Several of his opponents said they were upset with the Mayor for going public with his concerns when “this is a Rowlett matter.”

Another said she and others were angry with the Mayor “because he wants to strip City employees of their (health insurance and retirement) benefits.”

Laurie Ann Dygowski said she felt it was wrong for the Mayor to call City Council Members names – such as when he stated at the March 19 Rowlett TEA Party meeting that “Michael Gallops is either a fool or is foolish.”

She was holding a sign that read, “You’re the Fool.”

Other citizens spoke in Harper’s defense.

“I think the City of Rowlett is losing a great public servant if he decides to resign,” Richard Lavendar said.

One woman and two girls held signs that read, “I support Mayor Harper,” “Say It Ain’t So, Don’t Go,” and “We’re Behind You Mayor.”

Gottel stated that the City Council functions best as a team and he wishes the Mayor would agree to be more of a team-player because they could accomplish much more working together.

He questioned why the Mayor suddenly began complaining publicly after Harper actually voted with the Council members at the Feb. 28 meeting to approve such financial transactions as the purchase of 100 computers. He said it’s clear he did so on the City’s video recording.

“We would have been happy to listen to him had he just spoken up then,” said Gottel.

The Mayor Pro Tem also showed a vote of confidence in the City Manager when he stated:  “We are very, very blessed to have a City Manager like Lynda Humble.”

Although all Council members had words for the Mayor, Council Member Donna Davis made the lengthiest criticism of Harper and his complaints, suggesting that he may have violated some ethics regulations by going public.

She took issue with several of the Mayor’s public statements, agreeing with Gottel that he did vote with Council to purchase the 100 computers, plus to reduce the cost of living and death benefits for city employees.

She defended the City Manager’s and Council’s actions with what she called “The Rest of the Story” a term made famous by the late radio celebrity Paul Harvey.

“My point is citizens should not have to ask for the rest of the story; that should be something the City Council is forthcoming with.”

“Mayor, I think you owe the media, the city manager and staff, this council and, most importantly, the citizens of Rowlett a public apology,” she added.

Davis concluded her remarks stating she believes the Mayor now has three choices:

1. “Step aside – and that’s between you and the citizens.”

2. “Continue to lob accusations and half-truths over the fence at Council and the City Manager and then hide behind your role as a victim in the scenario that you have created. That’s does no one any good and it causes immense harm to the City of Rowlett.”

3. “Or join us back at the table and help us move Rowlett forward.”

“I can offer my hand in welcoming you back to the table because I have a great deal of respect for the citizens who elected you to be here.”

“I also believe you have value to add if you can stop the negative behavior. And that’s what I’m asking for. Stop this negative behavior and concentrate on the positive.”

No actions were taken against Harper at the meeting. The Mayor Pro Tem said afterward he thought it would be inappropriate to even discuss actions without the Mayor being present.

By J.J. Smith, Publisher

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1 Response for “Rowlett citizens pack Council chambers to show anger, support for Mayor”

  1. Ron says:

    Where is the substance? I’ve read every article I can find; the only compliant about the mayor is that he hurt someone’s feelings by calling them a hurtful name. All this time and effort wasted on such a childish issue. For the sake of the city, stop your complaining and focus on city business, do you remember why you were elected… to serve the city…not yourself.

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