After working together at Whitewright City Hall for the last seven years, City Secretary Beth Woodson and Building Permits and Court Clerk Kim Reynolds resigned together last week after Jeremiah Looney was sworn in as the city’s new mayor.

After working together at Whitewright City Hall for the last seven years, City Secretary Beth Woodson and Building Permits and Court Clerk Kim Reynolds resigned together last week after Jeremiah Looney was sworn in as the city’s new mayor.


"My reason for leaving is twofold," Reynolds said Friday. "One is looking at the videos and the online podcasts, by his own admission, he (Looney) uses cannabis to self-medicate. So if he is partaking in that activity, then he is breaking the law — a law which he swore to uphold when he was sworn in. … And then the second issue that just compounds my claim to a hostile work environment is the podcast he did before the election, where he didn’t say these things, the DJ called the city secretary all kinds of names."


Reynolds said her issue with the "Da Block Radio" podcast hosted by Tony Snow is that Looney agreed to the interview and didn’t dispute or reject anything that Snow said during the podcast.


Cannabis is the biological designation for the marijuana plant, and Texas law only allows cannabis oil to be used by severely epileptic patients who have uncontrollable seizures — a use passed by the Texas legislature last year.


In addition to Woodson and Reynolds, Police Chief Jason Wall, Municipal Judge Butch Goodman and Utility Clerk Whitney Sanchez also handed in their resignations last week.


Woodson declined to comment when contacted at City Hall Friday. Reynolds said the city secretary is still technically employed by the city as she will be using vacation time from Monday through June 3.


"I can’t speak for anyone else, but there’s something to be said that we all left at the same time," Reynolds said, adding she suggested before the election that everyone quit should Looney win. "It’s not because the mayor changed. We’ve all — all but one (Sanchez) — worked for that city for many, many years. It’s this particular mayor’s words and lack of action that made me decide I can’t be there anymore."


Reynolds said in the days following his election, Looney visited City Hall and, using his phone, recorded a conversation he had with Woodson about when he could be sworn in.


"That sets a precedent," Reynolds said. "These are your soon-to-be employees and you’re going to start by recording your conversations with them. There’s no way to be comfortable working with or for someone who starts his tenure with you in that way."


Whitewright’s former mayor, Allen West, said Thursday that the new mayor and newly elected city council members Russell Ponder and Gwyn Jordan made it known during the campaign that they planned to "clean out City Hall" when they got into office.


"I guess the employees decided they weren’t going to stay there and risk getting terminated later on, so five of them resigned," West said. "They have to do what is best for them and with them (Looney, Ponder and Jordan) saying everybody at City Hall was nothing but thieves and liars and embezzlers, I don’t see how anybody could work in that."


Jordan and Ponder each said on Friday that they never said they were going to clean out City Hall, had never accused anyone at City Hall of being a thief, liar or embezzler, and had not heard anyone else say such things, echoing comments Looney made when reached for comment Thursday.


Ponder said he did have information about why the five city employees resigned last week, but he was not at liberty to share it.


"You need to be talking to the mayor," Ponder said via phone. "The mayor is the spokesman for our community."


Looney did not answer or respond to calls Friday or Saturday, but told KXII Friday he thinks the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs should be allowed to treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries with medical cannabis. When asked by the station if he currently uses cannabis himself, Looney said, "Right now I just fight for it for the veterans to be able to use."


Looney testified in front of the Texas Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations in March about his PTSD and the degeneration of his spine following two combat tours in Iraq as a sergeant in the U.S. Army.


"I’ve been prescribed over 30 different medications," Looney said to the committee, listing medications such as methadone and OxyContin, among others. "These medications had side effects which were very much like the symptoms of my PTSD and intensified the hopelessness, the worthlessness and suicidal thoughts I had. … My quality of life while in the VA’s care for nine years fell to zero. But the cannabis makes me feel again and makes me want to work through my PTSD trauma and it helps me with my back pain and nerve pain."


He said he discovered cannabis two years ago and it helped him overcome feelings of hopelessness, suicidal thoughts and a "serious drinking problem."


"I now have full custody of my daughter and I coach her basketball and softball teams in our town," Looney said. "I’ve been back in school since I found cannabis two years ago and I’m excelling at all my studies. This plant is not a drug that is a strain on society, society is a strain on this plant."


Messages seeking comment from Snow were not returned Saturday and the audio of the podcast featuring Looney was removed Saturday from the website that hosted it.