LEAGUE CITY — Councilman Dennis OKeeffe faces possible censure by the City Council for what some claim are inappropriate communications with city staff members.
OKeeffe, who has gained a reputation for his sometimes combative style since joining the council, is specifically accused of trying to intimidate City Manager Mark Rohr.
OKeeffe, who faces opposition from former Councilman Tommy Cones in November, said the censure movement is political theater.
“Council consideration to censure a council person is a disgusting compliment given the sequences of events that preceded this action, including but not limited to, the city manager’s office actively collaborating with council members for political purposes in advance of an election,” he said.
“The roundabout compliment is their urgency for dirty schemes consistent with League City campaign tradition to tarnish ones reputation in lieu of discussing the issues.”
OKeeffe, however didn’t explain the content of his email or elaborate on what his issues with Rohr are about.
The alleged intimidation stems from an email exchange between OKeeffe and Rohr as the city manager updated the council on the possibility of bringing the city’s legal matters in house.
The city has outsourced its legal services, but after a recent audit Rohr has been exploring creating a legal department.
Mayor Tim Paulissen said the city auditor looked at the costs and benefits. The mayor said the initial analysis considered having a staff of four to six people in the legal department.
Based on that, City Auditor Craig Hametner recommended staying with outsourced legal services — but with tighter controls over expenditures.
Rohr, however, wants to explore an option that would have a staff of two full-time attorneys and an assistant. He has asked the city auditor to conduct another cost-benefit analysis.
In emails obtained by The Daily News, Rohr sent an update on his efforts to the City Council on July 15 at about 10 a.m.
In a response at about 10 p.m. OKeeffe wrote: “I’m ready. Lots of malicious malware. I thought you were smarter than that. Bring it on.”
The “bring it on” comment was followed by a long underline as if OKeeffe was suggesting some other word should be there or leaving the reader to fill in the blank. What OKeeffe intended to convey is unclear.
Rohr considered the response some sort of act of intimidation and requested that Paulissen add an agenda item to Tuesday’s meeting to address the issue. Rohr’s request, however, wasn’t sent to the mayor until Aug. 1, 17 days after OKeeffe’s email.
It is unclear whether anything else transpired between Rohr and OKeeffe since that email exchange.
Rohr was out of the office Friday and unavailable for comment.
The mayor agreed OKeeffe’s response was inappropriate and, with the support of Councilman Todd Kinsey, added the censure item to Tuesday’s agenda.
“I want to remained focused on the subject that this was an inappropriate communication,” Paulissen said.
While set to be addressed by council during Tuesday’s meeting, the mayor said it was possible the issue would be discussed during Monday’s workshop.
While OKeeffe supported Rohr’s hiring in February, he later balked at the new city manager’s contract. However, he did not detail specifically what about the contract he opposed.
This isn’t the first time OKeeffe’s combativeness has been played out in public. He often gets into verbal tussles with fellow council members during meetings. Last summer, he and Councilman Dan Becker got into a fistfight in the city manager’s office. Both council members were cited for the fracas, but charges were dropped.
Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.