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Former Heath City Manager accused of sexual harassment

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Former Mount Pleasant employee Amy Hinton has come forward accusing former Heath City Manager Ed Thatcher of sexual harassment, discrimination, disparate treatment, workplace bullying, retaliation, and defamation.

In December of 2019, Thatcher was nominated and approved unanimously by the city council to serve as the City Manager of Mount Pleasant.

According to letter dated July 22, 2020, from Johnson Hobbs Squires, LLP a law firm obtained by Hinton, to Thatcher and Kerry Wooten, City Attorney for the city of Mount Pleasant, based on their “firm’s initial investigation, we believe Mr. Thatcher directed certain sexual harassment, discrimination and unlawful conduct towards one or more female employees of the City, including Ms. Hinton. More specifically and by way of example, on one occasion during a City Director’s meeting, Mr. Thatcher asked Ms. Hinton in front of her colleagues to get on her knees in order to perform a sex act (fellatio) on Thatcher, causing the males in the room to laugh and humiliating Hinton.”

According to the letter, when Mr. Thatcher’s disgusting and perverse sexual harassment to City officials was reported, “Hinton was demoted, asked to sign paperwork agreeing not to sue the City without consulting an attorney and ultimately removed altogether from the workplace. Rather than perform an actual investigation, temporarily (or permanently) remove Ed Thatcher from the workplace, offered Hinton counseling and/or legal advice, the City immediately attempted to cover up the misconduct and rid itself of Ms. Hinton.”

“Unfortunately, Mr. Thatcher’s actions with respect to Ms. Hinton are consistent with his degrading course of conduct with the City of Mount Pleasant. During the course of our investigation, we’ve spoken with current employees of the City of Mount Pleasant who’ve both confirmed and condemned Thatcher’s discriminatory conduct. Yet, even now the City of Mount Pleasant continues to allow Thatcher to act as City Manager, leaving him in a position of power and control over his female victim. Even worse, our investigation has discovered evidence that Thatcher may have been working with one or more members of the City Council behind closed doors to take additional adverse, unlawful employment actions against Hinton without affording her the due process to which she is legally entitled. Any such discussions, of course, would violate the Texas Open Meetings Act and could subject one or more participants to criminal penalties. By any reasonable view, City Manager Thatcher’s actions are discriminatory, demeaning to the female public servants and reflect
a culmination of his own degradation of the work environment at the City of Mount Pleasant,” the letter says. “Frankly, the citizens of Mount Pleasant deserve better. There is simply no place in the City of Mount Pleasant for this kind of sexual misconduct and/or mistreatment of women and the City Council’s action, or lack thereof, will reflect directly on the City Councilmembers themselves.”

In a letter dated July 30, 2020, Hinton was notified that her position as the Main Street and Special Events Supervisor was being eliminated effective July 31, citing staff restructuring for the following fiscal year beginning October 1, 2020.

“The existing duties of this position will be consolidated into other City departments. As a result of such changes, your services are no longer required by the City of Mount Pleasant,” the letter reads.

The letter was signed solely by Thatcher.

Hinton was the only city employee to receive this type of notice.

In documents obtained by The Rockwall Times, in a memo dated July 10, 2020, the City of Mount Pleasant had applied for a grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Texas Community Development Block Grant Program.

The person in the position that Hinton held would have overseen this project.

“Accordingly, the City will be applying for such funding to support renovation of the downtown sidewalks in the City of Mount Pleasant,” the memo stated.

In August 2019, Thatcher promoted Hinton; gave her a $10,000 per year raise. On January 29, 2020, Hinton reported sexual harassment. In February 2020, Hinton was demoted and her pay was reduced significantly. In late May/early June 2020, Hinton was placed on administrative leave.

The letter from Johnson Hobbs Squires LLP was sent to Thatcher and the Mount Pleasant City Attorney on July 22, 2020.

On June 30, Hinton was notified that she was being terminated effective the following day.

“Ms. Hinton was a proud public servant who has served the City of Mount Pleasant with distinction since 2012.  Unfortunately, Mr. Thatcher, the current City Manager, had no issue addressing Ms. Hinton with derogatory and sexually charged statements in front of her peers.  Based on my Firm’s investigation, this appears to be part of a long history of misconduct by Mr. Thatcher,” Attorney Ryan Johnson said. “When confronted by his misconduct, Mr. Thatcher immediately began to cover his tracks.  Ms. Hinton was urged to sign a statement dropping her claim and was refused the opportunity to speak with the City Attorney. Ultimately, Ms. Hinton was punished for reporting Mr. Thatcher’s sexual misconduct – first demoted, then put on administrative leave and ultimately, fired.  At this point, it is clear that Mr. Thatcher forcibly ended Ms. Hinton’s career at the City of Mount Pleasant hoping to rid himself of her altogether in as quiet a manner as possible so as to avoid public embarrassment.”

According to Johnson, at least one other woman come forward alleging similar allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Thatcher from another city where he was previously employed.

“Mr. Thatcher’s actions are despicable and an embarrassment to the City of Mount Pleasant.  The City of Mount Pleasant should be a place where females will be treated with respect and honored as valuable City servants,” Johnson said.

Before working with the City of Mount Pleasant, Thatcher served as the City Manager of the City of Heath for 14 years before being terminated in November 2018.

“Last night, Heath’s city manager was terminated. It has been over 2 years since I’ve sat behind the dais at the City of Heath, so I can’t begin to know or understand motives, reasoning, dynamics, etc. of the decisions made at the council level. I do know that Ed Thatcher is one of the best men that I have ever known in my life. In my 5 years on the council and years since representing Heath in Austin, I grew to know a strong family man, a man devoted to his church congregation and a professional with a wealth of knowledge of public administration and local governance,” Texas State Representative Justin Holland said in a social media post following Thatcher’s departure from the City of Heath in 2018. “I served with and under Ed’s leadership as the ‘CEO’ of my city – the city that I love. I also grew to know Ed on a personal level. Ed taught me about horsemanship and he taught be about life. Ed has a happy disposition; I’ve never seen him mad. He’s rarely anything but positive and would be impossible to be mad at. I think Heath lost a great public servant and I hope we get to keep him as a resident and community leader. I’m sad to see the Ed Thatcher era at the City of Heath, TX end. Sometimes it takes a while for the dust to settle, but I hope we don’t regret it in the future.”

Holland served on the Heath City Council for 5 years; two as Mayor Pro Tem. He has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2016.

No reason was ever made public for Thatcher’s departure at the city of Heath.

On October 9, 2018 in executive session, the Heath City Council discussed the position of the city manager. Following this executive session, the city executed a Professional Services Agreement with Usrey and Associates, Inc. for human resource consulting.

On October 23, 2018 an item described as “deliberation regarding the appointment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of a public officer or employee: city manager” appeared on the agenda in an executive session.

This item appeared again on the November 13 agenda.

On November 27, 2018 after another discussion in executive session, Mayor Kelson Elam informed City Manager Ed Thatcher that he was being put on paid administrative leave effective immediately with the intention of termination.

On November 28, 2018, The Rockwall Times reached out via e-mail to Mayor Elam, each council member, city secretary Norma Duncan and Thatcher and did not receive a response.

The Rockwall Times recently contacted former Heath city employees who worked with Thatcher and none have agreed to comment on the situation.

This is a developing story. It will be updated as information becomes available.

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