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Council takes no action on discipline of city manager

By Scott Harvey

Commerce – As part of a three hour meeting Tuesday, the Commerce City Council took no action on possible discipline of or removal of City Manager Dion Miller.

Councilman Tony Henry requested the item be placed on the agenda, citing several occasions of concern which included a failure by Miller to review and execute checks issued by the city, failure to pursue a water contract with Texas A&M University-Commerce, plus failure to seek council consent for contracts with outside contractors.

Miller addressed the allegations during a lengthy speech where he provided several documents to back his reasoning.

Regarding the checks issue, Miller stated that while he did not sign all checks that went through his office, they were all reviewed properly. Council referenced the city's charter, which outlines proper conduct regarding check-signing.

He stated that there was never an initial deadline made for the water contract, and felt there needed to be more time to allot for a cost study. He indicated that in the future, if it is the request of council, he can sign all checks.

Some council members also expressed concerns regarding Miller's failure to secure a health inspection agreement with Hunt County. Miller contended the contract would go to a month-to-month following expiration anyway.

Another major concern from some council members was regarding a contract agreement with McLain Decision Support Systems, who has been hired to conduct a water cost study before pursuing a water contract with A&M-Commerce. Miller indicated that by rule, no contract above $50,000 required notification to council. The contract is valued at $24,000, with $8,000 paid to date.

Based on the inspection and water contract issues, Councilwoman Biggerstaff mentioned she would have a hard time trusting Miller on items of similar importance in the future.

Of the citizens who spoke during the public hearing, a majority sided with Miller. Some citizens felt the allegations were small in nature and sound fixable, while others spoke to the character of Miller, saying he is an honest and trustworthy man of integrity and hoped the council would embrace the mayor-council form style of government. One city official requested both Miller and the council continue to work together to resolve their issues, noting it can take time to get on the same page when coming into a new environment.

The one individual who spoke against Miller cited a lack of pay raises for police officers, and said there is too much money being spent on studies for street improvements and no improvements on those streets.

Councilman Henry said he had requested the item be discussed based on comments he'd heard from Commerce residents. Miller indicated there were no hard feelings and that in his professional career; he's always strived to make an effort to fulfill the council and citizen's desires.

Miller was hired by the city last summer following the retirement of Bill Shipp.