Mayor Ken Crawford provided the tie-breaking vote Thursday morning in dismissing charges by councilmembers against City Manager Ricky Jorgensen.
Crawford, who was elected as mayor in a runoff election in June, proved to be the necessary vote during Thursday’s lengthy meeting in which councilmembers presented a formal list of charges against Jorgensen. Crawford’s vote favored Jorgensen, 3-2.
“I’m happy to put all of this behind me and get back to work doing city business,” Jorgensen following the meeting. “It’s not only affected me, but my staff as well.”
At the June 29 council meeting, council unanimously voted to bring forth a formal list of complaints and charges against Jorgensen at Thursday’s meeting, as directed by the City Charter. This was done to give Jorgensen an opportunity to respond to the various issues.
City Attorney Guy Goodson stated the charges against Jorgensen included his failure to perform an inquiry of former Vidor Police Chief Eric Foerster and respond back to council; providing false or incorrect information on an F-5 form following departure of Foerster; improper use of funds in two city accounts; and failure to deliver requested material to councilmembers in a timely manner.
Jorgensen, along with his attorney, Larry Hunter, responded to each charge one-by-one and even brought forth witnesses to refute many of the allegations, while allowing council the opportunity to ask questions.
Many of the accusations come from councilman Matt Ortego and former councilwoman Angela Brading, who officially resigned from council on June 30. Ortego said during the meeting he felt Jorgensen had not done as instructed by council, which he stated during several of the complaints, and that Jorgensen was often slow at providing requested materials.
The most interesting portion of the meeting came when Chief Dave Shows of the Vidor Police Department approached the podium as a witness and offered his testimony on the claim of missing or mis-used funds from two city accounts related to security and technology.
Shows, who has been in law enforcement for 34 years, was conducting an inquiry in the matter, after receiving information from Councilman Ortego, and said he was called for a meeting at City Hall by then Mayor Ray Long and Jorgensen.
“I initially went to City Hall and spoke with (Jorgensen) about the funds, but I thought it would be prudent to wait for the return of the finance director who was out of town,” Shows said. “She supplied me with the forms I asked for when she returned, but the differed from the figures I had been given. I was told one sheet was estimates, and the other was exact costs.
“I was told by Mayor Long that he didn’t feel it proper of me to be looking into anything at City Hall,” Shows continued. “He said as long as he was mayor it would never come up in open council.”
Shows stated he has only been asked to do an inquiry and not an official investigation into the funding issue and he would do so if ordered by council.
Ortego asked Shows what his opinion of Long’s comments were.
“It made me wonder why it was said. Normally, when people say you aren’t going to look at something, there is something to hide,” Shows explained.
Council opted to take a vote on the matter immediately instead of entering a second executive session, but councilman Mallie Bickham wanted to share his thoughts first.
“It appears Mr. Jorgensen’s attorney has proven to me these charges are frivolous and personal,” he said. “All charges should be dropped and let’s get on with city business.”
Bickham and councilman Trey Haney voted in favor of dropping charges against Jorgensen, while Ortego and Lynda Courtney opposed. The vote was deadlocked at 2-2 because councilmember Brock Galloway excused himself from the meeting approximately one hour before the vote.
Crawford was left with the option of making the deciding vote, and sided with Bickham and Haney in dismissing the charges by a vote of 3-2.
Prior to the start of the Jorgensen discussion, council agreed to hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, July 21, to consider appointing a new councilmember to replace Brading who resigned on June 30.