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After 32 years, Couch suddenly gone from Rockwall City Hall

ROCKWALL – Julie Couch started her career with the City of Rockwall in 1979 as an administrative assistant. She was appointed city manager in 1993. Now she is gone. Friday was her last day.

The Rockwall City Council voted 5-2 late last Monday night to terminate her contract and have city attorney Pete Eckert prepare the paperwork.

Former Assistant City Manager Rick Crowley has been appointed Interim City Manager until a search can be conducted for a permanent manager. He has worked for the City since 1984, when he was hired as an administrative assistant.

According to City Council members, who asked that their names not yet be used until contractual issues with Couch are settled, a lack of trust was one reason why she was dismissed.

“She just wasn’t doing her job properly anymore,” said one Council Member. “For example, she’d stopped preparing meeting agendas as required.”

Another problem – and perhaps the underlying reason for her termination – was that the new conservative majority of the newly-elected Council is taking the City in to a much different, pro-business direction – favoring less regulation, smaller government and lower taxes.

Couch just didn’t fit well into the new equation. There were too many issues.

For years, Couch and the City Council have favored and enforced strict regulations for businesses, for example, when it came to such things as sign ordinances. Couch is a good friend and supporter of former two-term Council member and defeated 2011 mayoral candidate Glen Farris, who strongly advocated strict sign codes during his campaign. He often said he didn’t want Rockwall to look like Houston.

She is also friends with attorney and former three-term Council member Matt Scott, who recently filed a Public Information Open Records Request asking the City show him about 19,000 emails sent to or received by the City Council between July 15 and Oct. 31.  It appears that he – and perhaps a client – wanted to know what they had to say about Glen Farris’ unsuccessful bid to become the next Rockwall Chamber of Commerce President.

Couch angered some Council members when she apparently told Scott he could have access to the emails for no cost. They were also angry that she did not notify them about such an unusual request, which they quickly learned from the Texas Attorney General’s office the City could legally charge Scott $4,600. This may have been the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

He has since modified his request so the emails will be less expensive to see. City Secretary Kristi Ashberry said the City is still assessing what the cost will be for his newest request.

Then there is the ongoing, highly-emotional issue of the City’s “no-kill” animal shelter, where local animal advocates say the staff has done a terrible job of caring for dozens of dogs and cats after the City Council voted to make it a no-kill shelter several months ago.

When a virus of some kind broke out there shortly after and was not properly dealt with by shelter staff, the City had to shut down the shelter and stop allowing adoptions due to the poor health conditions.

Animal advocates stormed a Council meeting shortly after, declaring that staff members should be fired if they are not animal lovers who will do a better job caring for the animals.

As recently as last week, Mike and Pam Kitkoski of Rockwall Pets said the  issues are still continuing at the shelter and little progress has been made.

As City Manager, Couch was responsible for ensuring that staff members operated the shelter properly. Complaints have continued to pour in.

Council members say they will be happy to explain specific reasons why they voted to terminate Couch’s open-ended contract in the near future. They added that, despite rumors to the contrary, they do not have anyone specific in mind to replace her.

The Council is scheduled to vote on the document terminating Couch’s contract at their Nov. 21 meeting.

She is married to well-known Rockwall attorney David Couch.

By J.J. Smith, Publisher

 

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2 Responses for “After 32 years, Couch suddenly gone from Rockwall City Hall”

  1. SandraM says:

    Julie will be missed regardless of her present situation. I have been an advocate of getting rid of the “good ole boys” so now the only one left is Pete Eckert. Then housekeeping will be accomplished

  2. Not Sudden!!
    About time the City Council of Rockwall grow some balls and fire this city manager!! While I was on the council (1999-2005) I had 3 of the 7 votes needed to fire her due to DWI she was convicted for and poor performance…but the other 4 on the council had no balls to make the move to remove her because they were scared of her..She never listen… to the council and the direction they gave her..in fact she told me “I can run this city the way I want to because every 2 years we change enough council members that they can never get it right” She ran the department head’s by fear, and would only
    hire department heads that were scared of her…She made sure the ones she hired would not buck her…Some of those same department heads are still there, and have no business being there..Hopefully you know will take a look at these positions and
    make corrections before you hire a new manager…congratulations, and good luck….
    Former 3 Term Rockwall City Councilmember (1999-2005)
    Terry Raulston

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