As the city’s representative on the governing board of the Texoma Council of Governments, Kevin Couch gave the rest of the City Council an update on last month’s TCOG meeting, which saw the board approve a settlement of a suit against it and Executive Director Susan Thomas.
Couch, who serves as the TCOG governing board’s vice president, explained the board had also tabled action until June on whether or not to renew Thomas’ contract after not being able to come to a decision.
“TCOG Executive Director Susan Thomas was involved with a subordinate,” Couch said. “She failed to inform the entire board of that relationship. She failed to also inform the board of allegations of fraud and abuse within the employee’s department. She cost the taxpayers recently $930,000, almost $1 million, in a whistleblower lawsuit. So all that said right there, kind of alone, is all the reason we really need to not renew her contract.”
During the TCOG meeting, Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley, who serves as the TCOG board president, gave the executive committee’s recommendation that the board not renew its contract with Thomas. The committee is made up of Brinkley, Couch and Secretary/Treasurer Spanky Carter. The board was divided on the action after the motion to not renew its contract with Thomas failed in a 6-6 vote. A later motion passed that tabled action until the regular June TCOG board meeting. Thomas’ current three-year contract expires on Aug. 31.
The debate on Thomas’ contract came about after the TCOG board approved a settlement with Stacee Sloan Caskey, who filed claims in federal and district courts against Thomas — individually and professionally — as well as former TCOG board President Keith Clegg and TCOG itself. TCOG agreed to pay Sloan Caskey $555,000 plus 18 months of COBRA insurance for her and her family. Couch’s assertion the suit cost taxpayers about $930,000, which includes expenses associated with the settlement and legal fees.
Sloan Caskey, the former TCOG finance director, claimed she was fired from her job improperly after looking into issues of fraud, waste and abuse.
“TCOG is responsible for dispersing about $10 million in taxpayer dollars every year,” Couch said. “That’s money the taxpayers of Texas have given up out of their hard-earned incomes to support some of our most vulnerable citizens. But under Dr. Thomas, TCOG has grown larger and less efficient, soaking up more tax dollars, every single year. At some point along the way, I believe TCOG has lost track of its core mission, which is to serve the taxpayers of Cooke, Grayson and Fannin counties.”
In a prepared statement sent to the Herald Democrat last week, Thomas said the vote to table the decision about her contract passed eight to four “with the support of an executive committee member.”
“It is my belief that the majority of TCOG board members want to use that time to do their due diligence to ensure they make a decision which is in the best interest of the organization and not one that is unduly or unfairly influenced by personal and political agendas,” Thomas said.
Couch said in addition to the lawsuit, he believes TCOG has failed to stay within its budget and it’s the responsibility of the taxpayers’ representatives to change the organization’s leadership.
“Under her leadership, the organization has become the absolute poster child of government bloat and has come to represent every single thing people hate about government — reckless spending, corruption, unaccountability — it’s all there,” Couch said. “And frankly, it’s embarrassing that the taxpayers’ representatives, at least six of them, have failed to do anything about it. I strongly encourage Dr. Thomas to step down from her position as executive director and end this fiasco. And if she won’t, it’s high time the board step up to the plate and vote to remove her.”