Citizens calling out Rusk city manager for 'retaliating against police'

RUSK, Texas (KETK) - There is turmoil going on in the city of Rusk. At Thursday night's city council meeting, citizens are claiming the city manager has retaliated against the police department.

It all stems from an incident that KETK covered back in January when the police department filed charges against the city of Rusk Volunteer Fire Chief, Donald Lankford. He reportedly assaulted two teenagers who threw a firecracker near a fireworks stand Lankford owns.

"The pain sustained from honesty is a whole lot more tolerable than the embarrassment of being caught up in a lie. I'm going to leave you to think about that," said Martin Holsome, a Rusk citizen. 

Holsome first took the stand at the Rusk City Council meeting Thursday. He, along with many other citizens, is concerned about a rift going on between the city manager, Mike Murray, and the Rusk Police Department.

One issue presented is the department has been without a secretary, so calls made to the department are transferred to city hall. Citizens said the city manager told them an advertisement was placed in the local newspaper for the secretary position, but they found none.

"That kind of leads me to believe when you said you put it in the paper, you were lying," said Rusk citizen Sally Wallace. 

Wallace also mentioned the Cherokeean Herald never confirmed the City of Rusk requesting or paying for the secretary position to be posted.

Susan Kast worked for the police department as a dispatcher and administrator for three years. She handed out four typed pages of her concerns to everyone present at the meeting.

"I'm telling you, I am citizen, I pay my taxes, put me on the agenda and let me know what day I need to show up," said Kast. "I saw the retaliation that Mike Murray, the city manager, did to them and I couldn't do anything about it, so I quit my job so I could address it as a citizen because I couldn't fix it as an employee."

Kast asked the officers present at the meeting if any of them felt they had been retaliated against by Murray. Lieutenant Brad George raised his hand and said the disassociation between him and the city hall began once he started the investigation on Fire Chief Lankford. 

"I swore an oath 19 years ago to uphold the law of the state of Texas in whatever jurisdiction I was working and I have, every single day, done that," said Lt. George. "I will not sway from my commitments to this community. Since January, there has been a rift between the city hall and the police department and it is being blamed on me. Blame me if you've got somebody to blame for doing my job. Don't blame me for somebody else's actions."

Citizens then asked Lt. George if the law had been broken. He said "I know the law has been broken. I know the Texas Rangers have been told." When asked who broke the law, he said "the city manager."

He said Murray illegally wiretapped phone conversations. At this point, he said it is only a complaint and the Texas Rangers have been notified. 

Amidst the turmoil, citizens want one thing.

"We need to get it right," said Rusk citizen Jan Pate. "We need to deal with some issues so that we can move forward." 

Kast said the fire chief is still under investigation, however no punishments have come of the three charges brought against him by the Rusk Police Department and Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. 

KETK was not able to speak to the city manager because the meeting was still going on when we left. We will follow up on this story as we learn more information. 




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