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.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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(8) comments

Carlos Ponce

I don't like getting involved in Hitchcock city politics since I don't live there but I know many of those involved. When they announced the appointment of Dorothy Childress as mayor my first thought was this was not a good move. Why remove John Hamm? Childress should resign.
I also question Fard Abdullah and Randy Stricklind's vote to oust John Hamm. But each has to answer to their single member constituencies. Is this what they wanted? I doubt it. Can you give any good reason to remove Chief Hamm? I doubt that too.
John Hamm is an excellent police chief and actively involved in the community. John was named Hitchcock's Man of the Year by the local Chamber of Commerce for the work he has done. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Hitchcock ISD Education Foundation.
I STRONGLY urge Fard Abdullah and Randy Stricklind to reconsider their vote. Your vote to remove Chief Hamm is not rational.

Rusty Schroeder

The Circus is in Hitchcock, the gift that keeps on giving :)

PD Hyatt

Childress has been a nightmare every time she has been involved in Hitchcock politics, she has had several lawsuits against her from her past stints as Mayor that the city has had to pay for. Her daughter in law posted the other day in Hitchcock Talks that Hamm was being fired for insubordination. How she knows this and why she posted personal matters on social media is a different story. The citizens of Hitchcock are going to do a recall and run this mayor out of office. Like Monica Cantrell stated, elections have consequences and when Mayors are appointed they really have consequences which can be real bad for a town! Now with 1 officer per shift this city has no protection and the Mayor is happy about that as she has tried to destroy the PD before!!!!

Ron Shelby

Actually, you do have overlap from County offices...some of which are very nearby. In the end, the county will not let citizens anywhere go completely unprotected.

Carol Dean

I hope the GCDN keeps on top of this situation. "Good Ole Boys and Girls" need to grow up and realize that they are causing Hitchcock's own downfall. Yes, people, there is a world outside of your city limits!

Carlos Ponce

Yogi Berra: "It's déjà vu all over again."
"The Hitchcock police chief is gone, an explanation is missing
By HEBER TAYLOR Aug 20, 2014
Oh, come on. You can’t fire a police chief and expect people to be satisfied with no explanation whatsoever.
The Hitchcock City Commission on Monday fired Police Chief Clay Kennelly 'for job performance and loss of confidence.'
What was that about?
Obviously, with a split vote, there’s debate about whether the firing was justified.
The refusal to comment because of legal reasons is just a complete abdication of responsibility — elected officials have a responsibility to keep voters and taxpayers informed.
Of course it’s a legal problem if you get into the intimate details of a personnel file. But when a person holds a position of public trust, such as the position of police chief, questions about what led to a “loss of confidence” are completely fair.
And if elected representatives refuse to answer fair questions, how can you pretend to have accountability in government?"
https://www.galvnews.com/opinion/editorials/article_8c5d7e34-2814-11e4-a3d6-001a4bcf6878.html
Voting FOR Removal: Lee Sander, Fard Abdullah and Glen Manis
AGAINST: Mayor Anthony Matranga and Randy Stricklind

Carol Dean

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Pretty sure this will end up being Hitcock's loss!

mike folse

When is the city going to act like adults and try to resolve our problem instead of acting like children. The cities deficit has been going on long before Ms Childress came into office. Who approved the budget to get us in this situation. The tax payers are tired of this ongoing battle. Maybe all of the council should be replaced!

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