STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
JOHNSON CITY — An embattled police chief opted Nov. 27 to take “voluntary leave,” accept a severance package, and retire in June 2018 following a contested public hearing about his suspension by the mayor.
Johnson City Police Chief Randy Holland was suspended Nov. 9 by Mayor Dawn Capra with a recommendation to terminate his employment connected to a performance review.
The suspension resulted in a public hearing at which Holland and the City Council carved out a paid leave agreement.
Capra had originally planned that the council would act on her termination recommendation at its Dec. 5 meeting.
In her performance review, the mayor cited a number of reasons for her termination recommendation such as vehicle maintenance issues, “abuse of office” regarding an allegation the chief hindered an officer’s job search, and a “deteriorating” relationship with the Blanco County Sheriff’s Office.
“We have an excellent relationship with all the surrounding agencies,” Holland countered.
On Nov. 9, about 150 people attended the public hearing, which featured Holland’s attorney refuting points from the performance review.
“I thankfully had documentation to all of this” Holland said. “All the points were defeated one by one.”
City Council members eventually met in executive session for several hours and reached an agreement with the chief, which included acceptance of Holland taking paid leave until June 13, 2018, a severance package, and a “payment allotment” of $12,500.
Holland said when his paid leave term ends, he will submit a “letter of retirement.”
“I’m on a voluntary leave,” he said. “Everything the way it occurred, it’s very obvious there could have been several ways to handle personnel issues other than the way it was handled.”
In a statement, Capra said:
“As per our settlement agreement, Chief Holland is on administrative leave until June 13, 2018. At that time, he will be eligible for retirement. As part of the settlement, he will receive an honorable discharge with credentials, meaning he will retire with the title of chief.
“Every finding of fact in my recommendation to council was based on fact,” the statement continued. “The city adhered to state law and the city personnel policy in order to maintain the privacy of the employee (the chief) during this investigation. Any allegations of impropriety on part of the chief were not part of the city’s investigation and, in fact, only became part of the discussion because of statements made by the chief and his attorney on Facebook. To be clear, this investigation only focused on the chief’s performance as a department head, not on any personal matter that may or may not have occurred outside his normal duties.”
Dozens of attendees had rallied on social media for Holland — who had served for about a decade with the agency — and attended the hearing with signs of support.
“I’m very grateful to the community for their humanitarian effort to comfort my wife and I in this challenging time,” he said.
Holland said, while on leave, he will focus on hobbies and potentially prepare to run for mayor.
“That’s a very good possibility and probability,” he said. “My interest has always been music, movies, and politics.”
Capra’s term is up in May 2019.
“I think the community was disappointed in the way Mayor Capra attempted to take care of business,” Holland said. “The mayor rang the bell that can’t be un-rung.”