LEAGUE CITY — Councilwoman Heidi Thiess, who recorded the audio of a fistfight between council members Dan Becker and Dennis OKeeffe, said she made the recording because of concerns she had when dealing with OKeeffe.
The councilwoman also presented a different account of what happened the day the two councilmen went to blows in the city manager’s office.
Thiess had not commented on the June 19 fight “because we were warned against tainting the legal proceedings.”
“It’s not been easy staying silent when others were spinning what happened to make OKeeffe look like a victim, but I could not jeopardize the court case,” she said. “The others wanted to get their version of events into the news and had no such ethical compunction.”
Becker has yet to comment on his role in the fight.
Thiess said she did not attend the meeting that was to include Becker, Mayor Tim Paulissen and then-City Manager Mike Loftin with any agenda of complaints. She called a Daily News report “erroneous” that she and Becker called the meeting to complain that Loftin was playing politics with the budget process.
Several League City officials, including the mayor, described the context of the meeting the way The Daily News reported it.
“When former City Manager Mike Loftin unexpectedly canceled a posted council budget meeting, Councilman Becker spoke with Mayor Paulissen and requested a meeting to discuss some miscommunication issues with Loftin and the mayor,” Thiess wrote in an email to The Daily News during the weekend. “It was not a secret meeting, nor was it closed door. I was invited to assist as an intermediary and I was happy to help in that capacity because, contrary to an erroneous report by GCDN, I was not involved in the conflict, nor had I accused anyone of anything.”
Thiess said when she arrived at City Hall, Paulissen sent a text to Becker that OKeeffe and Councilwoman Joanna Dawson showed up for the meeting.
She said Becker replied with concerns about a possible quorum. Reached Monday, the mayor said Becker never sent such a warning text.
Based on past issues in dealing with OKeeffe, Thiess said she was concerned about the councilman’s intent.
“Due to numerous public and private allegations OKeeffe has made against fellow council members and staff, as a rule, I will not have a conversation with him that is not on the record,” Thiess said. “Furthermore, I had personally endured a very offensive encounter with OKeeffe that required me to call in a staff member to witness.”
OKeeffe, who publicly apologized for his role in the fight, acknowledged that he at times can rub people the wrong way.
Thiess said when she looked into the room she could see that OKeeffe “appeared visibly agitated,” and that, “he was disheveled, filthy, soaked in sweat and he looked belligerent.”
“It was obvious that a meeting intended to resolve some miscommunication had turned into a very volatile situation.”
Thiess then turned on her mobile phone application that records audio.
“I made an instant defensive decision to document what we have unfortunately come to expect from OKeeffe — ugly statements, name calling and unconscionable false accusations,” she said.
Thiess said she didn’t expect the situation would escalate to blows, but insisted that OKeeffe was the instigator. OKeeffe has said that Becker threw the first blows.
“Becker did not push OKeeffe out the door,” she said. “O’Keeffe charged out of the room of his own volition with an intent to fight Becker outside.”
In the recording, Becker is heard challenging OKeeffe “to take it outside afterwards — we can do that, too,” but he also notes that OKeeffe didn’t react to the challenge.
OKeeffe said something as Paulissen and Dawson are commenting, but it is unclear what he says. Thiess said it was OKeeffe saying: “Let’s go Dan. Let’s go. Come on. Come on. Test it. Let’s go. Come on. Let’s go.”
Thiess said that’s when Becker tried to close the door behind OKeeffe. Then, Thiess said, OKeeffe pushed on the door to get back into the office and came in with arms swinging.
“Paulissen stepped in front of OKeeffe to stop him, but he moved around the mayor and struck Becker in the head, dislodging his glasses as he was reaching for the phone to call police,” Thiess said. “A scuffle ensued with Paulissen attempting to break it up.”
Both men were cited for misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges that last week the district attorney’s office dismissed, citing a lack of evidence that the fight took place in a public place.