“Transparency”. That was a consistent theme throughout KWHI’s Forum for the candidates for Brenham City Council Wednesday night at Brenham National Bank.
All four of the new candidates said they felt like the City needs to be more transparent in its decision-making process, or that transparency was missing completely in some cases. On the other hand, the two incumbent City Council members both felt like the City has done a good job of getting information to the public, even putting the burden on the citizens to attend more meetings and read the City’s website.
I can tell you one situation where the City is not being transparent is the forced early retirement, and now firing, of Brenham’s long-time Fire Chief Ricky Boeker. Last week City Manager James Fisher released to the media Boeker’s 2021 Employee Review as evidence that he was not doing the job he was asked to do. Fisher said he had numerous discussions with Boeker about concerns over staffing and training for the Fire Department. Brenham’s City Attorney told KWHI that Boeker’s employee file was public record, so it was okay for Fisher to release the 2021 review. So on March 31st, KWHI filed a Freedom of Information Request asking for the contents of Boeker’s employee file….to see if those discussions were documented and to see how he fared in prior year reviews. We are still waiting to receive that information. Apparently it’s okay for Fisher to pick and choose what he wants to release about the situation.
Thanks to Boeker’s attorney, KWHI has received a copy of his 2019 employee review done by Fisher. It paints Chief Boeker in glowing terms, calling him a “valuable team leader whose contributions to the success of the organization are immeasurable”. Boeker’s attorney also sent us a copy of the Fire Department’s Comprehensive Review looking forward from 2018 to 2025. The report which was given to Fisher by Boeker in 2018, specifically mentions the need for a new training facility and the urgent need for replacing the department’s self-contained breathing apparatus. Fisher cited the need for more department training as a reason for terminating Boeker, along with saying that Boeker had not made the City aware of the need to replace the SCBA’s. KWHI has asked whether the SCBA’s had been cut from the final City budget in year’s past, but we’re still waiting on an answer.
Fisher has not given a reason for Boeker’s “immediate termination” just 7 days before his planned “early retirement” on April 15th. But you have to wonder if Boeker’s release to the media that day showing the Fire Department had passed its biennial compliance inspection by the Texas Commission on Fire Protection might have rubbed Fisher the wrong way.
Transparency. Something completely lacking in Brenham’s City Manager…and something sorely needed for Brenham’s future.
And that’s the way it looks to this Spectator.