LEAGUE CITY — Council members Dan Becker and Dennis OKeeffe got into a fistfight at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon. The fight had to be broken up by other council members and police.
Both men were issued citations for disorderly conduct, according to copies of the tickets obtained by The Daily News.
Mayor Tim Paulissen, who witnessed the fight, confirmed the two council members got into an argument before it turned to blows. City spokeswoman Kristi Wyatt and other city officials who witnessed the fight and the aftermath confirmed the incident.
Five police officers, including Chief Michael Kramm, responded to the fight, according to police reports.
Based on interviews with those at City Hall at the time of the incident and city records, it appears the ruckus started about 6 p.m. after OKeeffe and Becker got into an argument about what OKeeffe considered an improper meeting about the budget.
Council had scheduled a public meeting Wednesday to review the impact of its directive that the city cut 3 percent from its budget. That meeting was canceled at noon.
Becker reportedly was upset that responses from city departments outlined what programs would have to be cut for city departments to meet the council’s goals. He and Councilwoman Heidi Thiess accused City Manager Mike Loftin of playing politics with the budget process.
Paulissen set up a meeting that was to include Thiess, Becker, the mayor and the city manager to address the complaints.
OKeeffe complained that such a meeting was catering to a few council members instead of the entire council. So he and Councilwoman Joanna Dawson showed up for the meeting.
Soon after, Thiess and Becker showed up, creating a quorum. The Texas Open Meetings Act prohibits a quorum of council members gathering to discuss city business outside a properly posted public meeting.
Becker and OKeeffe got into an argument about who would have to leave. That argument turned into a fistfight in the corner of Loftin’s office.
Police were called.
The city manager was down the hall when the fight broke out. Chief of Staff David Benson said he and Assistant City Manager John Baumgartner were in a conference room down the hall. Wyatt said she was in her office and didn’t see what happened.
“I cannot provide detailed comments in advance of defending a citation involving an altercation for attending a council member budget meeting without an invitation,” OKeeffe said in an email.
Becker did not return repeated calls, text messages or emails. Thiess and Dawson also did not return calls.
Loftin declined to comment and referred The Daily News’ questions to police.
OKeeffe confirmed The Daily News’ account of events and claims Becker threw the first punch.
The Daily News requested police records, copies of the 911 calls and any security video of the incident. The city did provide a basic police report, copies of the citations and security video of the incident but because of an ongoing investigation and the possibility of additional charges, the 911 calls and the detailed report of the incident were not immediately released.
The City Hall video does not show the incident because it happened in the city manager’s office, where there are no cameras.
According to the citations issued, OKeeffe, 58, and Becker, 59, were each cited for Class C misdemeanor disorderly conduct — fighting. Even if convicted, neither councilman faces removal from office.
The city charter provides that only convictions of certain high misdemeanors and felonies would result in a removal from office.