SAN ANGELO, Texas — It was a packed house inside Mertzon City Hall when the community’s City Council announced the resignation of Mayor Carol Shaw and termination of the city’s operations manager.
About 50 people attended Monday night’s council meeting, and while many came with questions and some voiced their concerns to the five volunteer council members, none directly addressed the elephant in the room.
The hearing was held following a turbulent week in the community of about 800 people that saw the arrest of Clayvorn James Rose, 69, the city’s operations manager, who has been charged with theft of property by a public servant, between $1,500 and $20,000, enhanced, and official oppression.
The Irion County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Rangers arrested Rose last week. A report by the Texas Rangers alleges that Rose spent $2,354 in city funds for personal expenses and made a lewd sexual comment directed at a female city employee. Two complaint reports were filed on March 15 with the Irion County Justice of the Peace Donna Smith’s office. Rose was booked into the Tom Green County Jail March 15 and released the following day on a $25,000 surety bond.
The hearing Monday began with a tense public comments portion, with residents criticizing city council and the council blaming residents.
“There’s a lot of blame to go around,” said Terry Criner, the mayor pro tem. “Mostly because of innuendos and rumor. This is a small town and things get put out, and I won’t deny there’s not some confusion.”
Council members voted unanimously to suspend Rose from his position with pay to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit against the city, following the legal counsel of James A. Kosub of Eldorado, the city’s attorney.
“A man is innocent until proven guilty and that hasn’t happened yet,” Criner said. “So if we fire him before that process has a chance to go through, then that puts us at a liability for being unjust to him.”
The council’s decision to suspend rose with pay drew some objections from the crowd, who had waited outside for about an hour during the closed executive session to learn of Rose’s fate. One resident asked how long it would be before Rose’s pay is cut off the city payroll. The council said he would remain on the books until such time as the court system finds him either guilty or not guilty.
According to the city secretary, Rose receives a salary of $1,500 every two weeks after taxes. An emergency council meeting was held last Tuesday, at which three council members voted to fire Rose subject to approval by the full council.
Mayor Shaw, who has remained silent about the issue, was a no show during Monday night’s meeting.
“She gave no reasons,” Criner said. “She just said she appreciated people, and she decided to step down.”
Ciner said he learned of Shaw’s resignation in an email Monday evening.
“It was probably the best thing she could have done for herself and for the city of Mertzon,” said Frances Grice, a Mertzon resident who attended the Monday night meeting. “I think they’re doing a really good job considering what has just happened and taken place, and I’m behind them all they way. We’re going to get through this.”
Those who attended listened avidly to the proceedings. About half of them stood for the two-hour meeting because seating wouldn’t accommodate the crowd.
“The people on the city council who did not have a very good or no idea about the full extent of what is going on” now have a clearer picture to make informed decisions, said Jimmy Wayne Tharp, a council member. “I think eyes are wide open and I think that everyone is aware.”
Criner said the council will accept Shaw’s resignation during the next meeting once it’s placed on the agenda, adding that the council will soon decide who should replace Shaw.
The council also discussed actions to retrieve some city property, such as ammunition and a car, currently in Rose’s possession.
Tharp said the council has changed the locks at city hall and shut off surveillance cameras inside so Rose, who has control over the cameras, could no longer view happenings inside the building.
“This was just dumped on me today, so I’m kind of floundering a little bit in my opinion,” Criner said. “But I will step up to the leadership if that’s what’s asked of me.”
Criner said he appreciated the support of the attendees and their patience and graciousness.
“They want us to get back to the way the old Mertzon was,” Criner said. “Friendly atmosphere, nice small town, great schools and that’s probably going to be our main goal.”
Find the original story at gosanangelo.com.