Hitchcock commissioners in a tight 3-2 vote Thursday fired police Chief John Hamm without explanation, after weeks of conflict at city hall between the popular homegrown law officer and Mayor Dorothy Childress.
But a standing-room-only crowd didn’t let the commissioners make the decision quietly.
“Get her out,” the crowd chanted at Childress before the vote.
Commissioners Fard Abdullah and Randy Stricklind joined Childress in voting for Hamm’s ouster.
“I do not discuss personnel matters,” Childress said as the audience shouted for her to provide a reason for the decision.
Commissioners Monica Cantrell and Mark Cook voted against Hamm’s termination. After storming out of an executive session held before the vote, Cantrell called for residents to mount a recall campaign against the mayor.
“You all have the right to recall the mayor, or any of us,” she said. “Be careful who you vote for.”
Hamm, meanwhile, told his supporters to use the opportunity to get involved.
“I’m not happy and I was hoping to finish my career here,” Hamm said.
Hamm said he would say more in the coming days. On Thursday he thanked the Hitchcock Police Department and those who supported him.
Childress offered Hamm the opportunity to resign, but he chose not to, Childress said.
Hitchcock residents, many of whom hadn’t attended a meeting before, showed up Thursday to support Hamm.
“I’m here to support John and find out what might happen next,” David Sauseda Jr. said. “The city is going downhill and I’ve never been involved in politics, but this is ridiculous.”
City officials have provided scant detail about why they wanted Hamm out.
It appeared Childress wanted to appoint someone else to Hamm’s position, Cantrell said.
City officials called and canceled a special meeting before releasing a second agenda for Thursday’s meeting.
City staff sent out an agenda to The Daily News early Tuesday for a special meeting Thursday with only one item on it for executive session about consulting with an attorney and discussing personnel. Executive sessions are convened out of public view.
Although city officials sent the agenda Tuesday morning, they signed it Monday evening, City Secretary Lucy Dieringer said. Special meetings must be posted 72 hours in advance, according to the state’s open meetings act.
Childress and the police department have been at odds since commissioners in March voted to eliminate four positions in the department as part of a larger effort to cut $900,000 in expenses and keep the city out of the red.
Since then, Hamm has spoken out about some of the department’s struggles, even as Childress in April attempted to quash speculation that cuts to the police department would make the city less safe.
Hamm was hired as Hitchcock’s police chief in 2014.
Hamm, a graduate of Hitchcock High School, grew up in the city and first worked for the department from 1990 to 1992. He returned after a 16-year stint with the Stafford Police Department and has served as code enforcement officer and fire marshal for Hitchcock.