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Council postpones judgment on Marshal Dietrich in packed meeting

November 23, 2022 - 00:00
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    Citizens, some of whom spoke during a lengthy public comment section, pack out Bandera City Hall last week BULLETIN PHOTO/ Cari Golyzniak

Multiple agenda items, including deliberation regarding “employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal” of City Marshal Will Dietrich were moved to a later date at last week’s packed City Council meeting.

New mayor and city council members were not sworn in because votes had not yet been officially canvassed, and the aforementioned deliberation was moved because an investigation had not been completed, but that did not stop members of the community from packing out City Hall in support of Dietrich.

After Mayor Suzanne Schauman said council would not be discussing Dietrich’s investigation in open session, multiple members of the community, former city officials and Dietrich’s lawyer provided comments supporting Dietrich and challenging the city during the public comment portion of the meeting.

City Administrator William Cox told the Bulletin no disciplinary action has been taken against Dietrich.

“Contrary to the comments made by Dietrich and his supporters, staff has worked diligently to ensure the process is conducted in a legal, fair, and unbiased manner,” said Cox. “This process has adhered to policies and procedures of the City of Bandera Personnel Manual, and the laws set forth in Government Code Section 614.021, Government Code Section 614.022, Texas Penal Code Section 37.08, and in accordance with the United States Supreme Court in Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967).”

The issue in the benchmark Garrity v. The New Jersey case was whether a State, contrary to the requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment, can use the threat of discharge to secure incriminatory evidence against an employee.

Scott Kaufman gave a statement to the council that included information he said was gathered from Dietrich and representatives of the City of Bandera.

“There are at least three items the administrator found during his audit of the Marshal’s department: a need for additional memory storage for video surveillance, failure to seek three estimates for vehicle repairs, receiving shipments of work-related items at Will’s place of residence,” said Kaufman.

Kaufman said he did not believe these items merited administrative leave and should have been handled by City Council, discussion with leadership and a corrective action.

“It is my understanding the Administrator reports to the City Council. It was the Administrator’s failure to not share this info immediately, and City Council’s failure to not obtain it immediately as well,” Kaufman concluded.

Public comment continued with Annette Friederich of Bandera Paint and Body, who said the company has repaired several vehicles over the years for the Marshal’s office.

“We’ve always made those vehicles a priority to be turned around and back on the road,” she said. “I know that insurance companies themselves do not require three bids. In fact, that is 1980s. Every single insurance company that I work with, which is hundreds, they only want one estimate.”

Insurance adjuster Chris Lackey said three bids are not required by a city or county.

“I am very familiar with the Texas Municipal League and their policies. I want you to think about this in the future. If you’re trying to get it done for less, you’re advocating for someone to commit fraud. I’m sure none of y’all want to go to jail for that one,” he said.

Next to speak was Dietrich’s attorney, Robert Leonard, General Counsel for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.

“I believe this decision to attack Will Dietrich in this matter is not based on professional standards but on personal biases. There’s an underlying hidden agenda here that is not supported by the actual facts that are alleging to be investigated. When you look at some of the things that he’s being accused of – things that challenge his honesty, his integrity, his reputation, there is absolutely no basis for any of this. The accusations that he has somehow misappropriated funds, baseless. He has been a good steward of the finances that this council has afforded him to run his office. There have been no allegations, ever, previously. What does it benefit the City of Bandera to send your vehicles out for repairs to Boerne or San Antonio?”

The CLEAT lawyer continued, “When you look at the allegations that he’s bringing people who are unsavory or who have been dismissed from the department, I think you have to look at the facts surrounding that matter that the person in question has been afforded access to this building numerous times due to their position as a volunteer firefighter. Not only that but this person who provided training to the officers in question, did so voluntarily at no cost to the City. Yet there’s this complaint that this is somehow immoral, that it questions Will Dietrich’s good moral character. It’s nonsense.”

Former Deputy Will Smith addressed the council, “I believe in this community and the people in it. Everybody is here for a reason, ‘cause they believe and trust in that man. I trust him with my life, my career, and I’ve seen everyone in this room put their lives in his hands. If you feel that the opinions of one person who has no experience in this community, no experience with the City; if you feel that his opinion is more important than yours, do what you feel is best. Everyone in this room has a different opinion. I think you should follow it.”

Former City Administrator, J. Horry, sent an email to the City, which was read aloud by City Secretary Jill Shelton.

“I found Will to be a person that went above and beyond to ensure the best interest for the City of Bandera,” Horry wrote. “Will was a person that I visited with on a regular basis regarding the day-today affairs of the City. Will would go out of his way to help people within the City on numerous occasions that I witnessed personally. As most of you know, Will is very dedicated to the community as a whole and helps in numerous ways throughout. He would gladly speak to anyone who had a question or concern. Please do not let politics get to your heads and lose the best City Marshal that Bandera has had in many years.”

Later in the meeting, the City Council met in closed session pursuant to Texas Government Code 551.071, consultation with attorney.

Votes were later canvassed at a special meeting of Bandera City Council on Nov. 21. A special meeting is scheduled for Nov. 30 at 6:30 p.m. An agenda had not yet been posted as of the Bulletin’s press deadline.