FORNEY, Texas — The Forney City Council unanimously approved and authorized the city attorney to begin drafting a separation agreement for City Manager Anthony "Tony" Carson.
The action came at approximately 10:43 p.m. on Tuesday night following an extensive executive session by the council.
Carson, who was not in attendance of Tuesday's virtual meeting, had recently come under fire for his alleged mismanagement of CARES Act funds and harboring a toxic work environment which fostered fear of retaliation among city staff members.
Most recently, on March 26, 2021, Carson announced the firing of Forney Police Department Chief Mica Lunt a month after the chief filed a grievance against the city manager alleging a pattern of improper and hostile working conditions — allegations a number of current and former employees, including from previous cities where Carson worked, have come forward and corroborated. Carson, in our previous coverage of the grievance, said he could not comment due to it being a personnel matter.
The city council had on two other occasions called for Carson's resignation — a vote in both of those instances failing 3-4.
The action Tuesday night authorized the city attorney, Jon Thatcher, to begin drafting a separation agreement and assigned current City Engineer, Karl Zook, as the acting city manager. The motion was made by Mayor Pro-Tem Shaun Myers, seconded by Council member James Traylor, and received unanimous approval by a vote of 7-0.
The separation agreement will likely come with severance pay, in accordance with Carson's employment contract, which includes one year's salary, or approximately $167,500, and health benefits.
"In the event the Manager is terminated by the Council during the Term of this Agreement and the Manager is then willing and able to perform all the duties of the City Manager under this Agreement, then, in that event, the City agrees to pay the Manager an amount equal to twelve ( 12) months full salary ("Salary Payment") and Insurance Benefits (defined below), paid out biweekly in the same manner and on the same schedule as the normal payroll of the City," reads, in part, Carson's employment contract [Complete document below]. "During such twelve ( 12) month period ("Payment Period") the Manager will continue to be covered, at the same employee participation rates, in the health, dental, life and disability plans contemplated by this Agreement ("Insurance Benefits"); provided however, that in the event Manager is ineligible to participate, for any reason, in any one or more of the insurance Benefits then, in addition to the Salary Payment, the City shall pay to Manager in equal installments during the Payment Period an amount equal to the policy premium cost for any such Insurance Benefit for which Manager is determined to be ineligible, including the cost of any COBRA (Consolidate Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1985, as amended) health insurance continuation coverage for which Manager may be eligible. The Manager will additionally be paid at the time of termination the value of all sick, vacation and personal leave, holidays and other benefits accrued by, or credited to the Manager up to the point of the termination; provided that, if the Manager is terminated for cause under and pursuant to applicable Texas law, then, in that event, the City shall have no obligation to pay the severance payments designated in this Section. Any payment for accrued paid time off shall be subject to the restrictions in Section 8."
Residents, during citizen forum and public comments portion of the meeting, called for Carson's firing and the reinstatement of Lunt as the police chief of the Forney Police Department.
Below are statements from Carson and the Forney City Council members, in the order they were given on Tuesday night.
“The City of Forney has unlimited potential to continue to grow as a community," a statement from Carson read on the City of Forney's Facebook Page. "I feel privileged that I was able to work with the excellent staff members of this City for the last two and a half years.”
"I am grateful to have worked with Mr. Carson while serving as mayor pro-tem of Forney," stated Myers. "Through his leadership, he has brought many of city councils', as well as his own ideas, to fruition; worked with our finance department to bring the City of Forney to perhaps the best position it has ever been financially; all while ensuring our entire staff received pay and benefits they all deserved."
"As mayor pro-tem of Forney, I want to thank him for his continued professionalism and for always doing what was best for our city," continued Myers. "As a citizen of Forney, I want to thank him for his help in the progress this city has experienced in the past two-and-a-half years including all our events, the millions in dollars in tax base that will benefit our city and school district in the years to come, millions of dollars in road improvements, and so much more. You will be missed."
"Over the past several weeks, I've tried to be diligent and gather all facts, pros and cons, and, with all personal issues, there have been details we can't and we should not discuss publicly," stated Council member Kevin Moon. "Not only that, but its been my responsibility to do everything possible to make sure the taxpayer dollars aren't at risk or in a position of liability."
"I certainly understand the frustration many people have felt and it was equally frustrating for me to be unable to freely discuss the details," continued Moon. "But, I believe that I have been able to research all the facts available and that I've done the due diligence that I believe my position requires. As a member of this council, I must move forward supporting this city manager separation agreement tonight."
"I didn't prepare a statement, but I do have a few comments I would like to make," stated Traylor. "First off, I want to take a moment to thank the public for speaking out this evening, specifically for speaking out related to former Chief Lunt. I know the past couple of months have been very difficult but I do want to publicly go on record and state that I do support Chief Lunt and feel as though his termination was absolutely horrendous and poorly timed."
"That being said, I enjoyed working with Chief Lunt the entire time he was here with the City of Forney," continued Traylor. "I feel as though he did wonderful things for the city and he will be missed."
"Tonight's decision by the council marks a turning point for our city to move forward with the healing process," stated Mayor Mary Penn. "While there is still much work ahead of us, the votes tonight have represented the will of the people by majority. Servant leadership should always be at the core of what we do every day and our city will accept nothing less."
"It's time to move beyond the discord," Penn continued. "It's time to turn the page and write a new chapter. One of restoration, rebuilding, and togetherness. I would be truly remissed If I didn't take a moment to thank every one of you who stood for what's right, sent words of encouragement along the way, and didn't give up. Thank you for being our city's guiding light in the face of adversity, we stood strong in solidarity. We will now be able to face Forney's future together.