RUSK, Texas (KETK) - The city of Rusk will be making significant changes to the way their city operates and an investigation into any wrongdoing by the city manager will be turned over to the Texas Attorney General's Office.
At Tuesday night's special council meeting, the Rusk City Council issued a statement.
The city said they will be taking several actions in response to comments and accusations about the city manager made by police officers, former police and others. The council has also previously requested the city attorney to contact the Cherokee County District Attorney's office to request a Texas Rangers investigation.
In response to the city's request, District Attorney Rachel Patton stated she will allow the AG's Office to investigate all claims. A timetable for the investigation is not known.
Following the city's own investigation, the Council concluded "serious concerns" exist within the Rusk Police Department, including a "significant morale problem."
The city stated they will be addressing the issues right away.
"We believe these problems need to be addressed as soon as possible, because they have the potential to adversely affect the jobs this Department performs.
Based on the City Charter, such problems have to be addressed by or through the office of the City Manager. However, in view of the recent allegations, the City Council does not believe that the current City Manager is the proper person to address the issues needing investigation."
"There is not a morale problem," said Rusk police officer Michael Goff. "I've talked to several officers today. There's one or two that might be disgruntled but everybody has problems. People aren't happy. You have all these problems going on within the city council members, but yet they want to address a morale problem that isn't there."
The City Council has also temporarily placed City Manager Mike Murray on paid leave, pending the AG's investigation. During the suspension, Bob Goldsberry, the director of economic development, will initially assume the role of acting manager. The city will appoint an interim city manager until the AG's report is received and evaluated.
The Rusk City Council said they still have full confidence in Murray, but believe these actions are in the best interest of the city. They will also immediately implement new administrative policy.
"In view of the urgency to address the issues we are confronted with, we are requiring that an administrative policy be immediately implemented under which any and all disciplinary write-ups and any other disciplinary actions of all City Departments must be submitted to the Acting or Interim City Manager for review and approval or disapproval prior to any disciplinary write -up or action being imposed."
Citizens claim these issues stem from an incident KETK covered back in January when the police department filed charges against Rusk Volunteer Fire Chief Donald Lankford. He allegedly assaulted two teenagers who threw a firecracker near a fireworks stand owned by the fire chief.
"Our husbands still have a job to do. Regardless of whether it's their daughter, whether it's their friend or a family member. It doesn't matter," said Lieutenant Brad George's wife, Holly George.
Police have even accused the city manager of illegally wiretapping phone conversations.
The fire chief, who was suspended for six months in February, remains under investigation.
KETK will continue to follow this story and provide the public with updates as they become available.