FORNEY, Texas — For the second time in a week, a member of the Forney City Council made a motion calling for the immediate resignation of City Manager Anthony "Tony" Carson.
Tonight's motion failed with the same result as Friday's — in a 3-4 vote. Council member James Traylor made the motion calling for the immediate resignation of Carson, which was seconded by Council member David Johnson. Mayor Mary Penn voted in favor of the motion with Mayor Pro-Tem Shaun Myers and Council members Derald Cooper, Robbie Powers, and Kevin Moon voting against the motion.
Last Friday, the Forney City Council held a special-called meeting to hear a grievance against Carson filed by Forney Police Department Chief Mica Lunt. Following an approximate three-hour executive session, Traylor made the same motion and the same votes were tallied.
Following that vote, and over the weekend, Carson announced a new city position and hiring — the promotion of Operations/IT Director Neil Cardwell to Deputy City Manager to oversee the Forney Police Department, the Forney Fire Department, and the Forney Economic Development Corporation.
Penn, in a statement Tuesday night during their regularly-scheduled meeting, said Carson's decision to create the new position made her "more [painfully] aware of [Carson's] inept leadership.
The hiring came on the heels of not only the grievance filed by Chief Lunt, but letters from Forney Fire Department Chief Derek Briggs, the Forney Police Officers Association, the Forney Professional Firefighters Association, and a letter from the Pekin, Illinois, Professional Firefighters Association — the city where Carson was last employed as city manager — all detailing Carson's alleged "toxic" behavior and hostile working conditions.
"You proved you were not interested in anyone’s opinions, nor did you even think it necessary to explain your funding plan detailing the cost to our taxpayers for this role," stated Penn during her statement Tuesday night. "You have put the entire city at risk by making such hasty, reactive decisions by yourself without following any formal process, vetting, or execution plan. You did not submit a request for qualified applicants with experience in this field to apply. You did not follow protocol."
Carson announced Cardwell's new appointment in an email to all departmental directors on Sunday.
"In order to begin to move past this and to ensure that all departments are operating as effectively as possible, I have made the decision to appoint Neil Cardwell to the position of Deputy City Manager immediately," Carson stated in that email.
Last Tuesday, the council moved to table the proposed raises of the city manager, city secretary, and city attorney until after their special-called meeting on Friday. The proposed raises were discussed in executive session. Back in open session, Traylor made a motion to accept the proposed raises for the city secretary and the city attorney, excluding the proposed raise for Carson. That motion was seconded by Johnson and Penn, Powers, and Moon voted in favor with Myers and Cooper voting against.
"I would just like to say that my vote is based on the fact that these raises are for a previous review period and has zero to do with anything that's facing our city at the moment," stated Myers.
Penn's complete statement:
"As the city mayor, I am obligated to our people. As a leader myself, one of the key attributes to being a great leader is welcoming and tolerating differences of opinion and disagreements. I welcome people who feel comfortable providing constructive criticism and alternate perspectives.
Weak leaders, on the other hand, take disagreement personally. They wave it off, as unimportant and at worse, work to remove those who disagree. Over the weekend, your poor decision brought more painful awareness of your inept leadership when you created a new position and appointed a person to Deputy City Manager. You proved you were not interested in anyone’s opinions, nor did you even think it necessary to explain your funding plan detailing the cost to our taxpayers for this role. You have put the entire city at risk by making such hasty, reactive decisions by yourself without following any formal process, vetting, or execution plan. You did not submit a request for qualified applicants with experience in this field to apply. You did not follow protocol.
Your decisions have not just affected you, they have affected our city, associates, and our government body. This is quite unfortunate.
I cannot be supportive of such decisions, especially those that have the potential of putting our city’s safety and security at risk. This is very dangerous. We need to move forward from the poor decisions, the negative culture that has been created, and the management of our employees through fear and intimidation. We are here to serve at the pleasure of the people and shouldn’t forget or take that charter lightly. In light of the recent events, it is clear and evident the citizens of Forney are calling for your resignation. I, Mayor Mary Penn, request for you to make the right decision, so our city can start to heal and move forward. Please, respectfully submit your resignation immediately as Forney’s city manager."
I know that the past week has been very stressful for everyone. The distractions have made it hard to focus on City business, but you have done a great job keeping your heads down and getting the job done. Thank you!
In order to begin to move past this and to ensure that all departments are operating as effectively as possible, I have made the decision to appoint Neil Cardwell to the position of Deputy City Manager immediately. This plan has been in the works for quite some time but in light of the difficulties, he will be supervising the departments of Police, Fire and EDC. All other Departments will remain under my direct supervision.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.