Last year, the voters of Liberty Hill spoke with great clarity when they elected Mayor Liz Branigan.
Incumbent Rick Hall faced more voters than had ever participated in any prior city election. The campaign pitted a soft-spoken “grandma” in an uphill battle against a well-financed, developer-backed incumbent. And even after the unexpected outcome, there remained those on the city council who did not read the very clear memo sent to the government by its citizens. Political denial became a very real syndrome at city council meetings.
For a time, the arrogance of those voices left over from the Hall term shut down Mayor Branigan’s mandate for honesty, transparency and reform. Examples like questionable behavior regarding potential self-dealing, working outside the existing framework of the law, and the allocation of taxpayer funds were not allowed to be examined. In fact, the official record will show that legitimate questions from the Mayor were rudely and loudly shut down.
So, the voters had to patiently re-up and speak up again and elect outsiders with the express intent of asking the hard questions, finding out the truth, and righting the ship.
Governments, even smaller ones like the City of Liberty Hill, can’t act in drastic, monumental changes the minute a new mayor and city council are sworn into office. But a great civics lesson is unfolding right in front of our eyes with the serious, thoughtful manner in which the new council is seeking to get to the bottom of some very troubling questions about missing receipts, missing funds, and the helter-skelter manner in which the City has been run.
Fundamentally, this newly-elected city council is going about doing the very tedious and difficult work of governing. This is what it looks like when fellow citizens are elected for the express purpose of cleaning up a political mess made by others. We should applaud their efforts as they seek to find the truth. Since they’ve made clear that they do not know the answers to the questions they are asking, we should settle in and give them time to find out where all the facts lead them.
At some point will they need to turn over their findings to state law enforcement? County or state prosecutors? We don’t know that yet and neither do they. However, they do know something is wrong. There is no way that a city should be run in secret.
It appears that a lot of official energy was spent in misplacing financial records or possibly hiding the final destinations of the public’s money. No doubt it will take just as much energy or more in discovery to find all the answers.
But, this week the Mayor and Council have clearly telegraphed to all of us that they are on the hunt.
This is great news for good government.