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Granite Shoals council investigates suspicious consultant fees

Granite Shoals City Council on Aug. 23, 2022

Granite Shoals City Council members listen to a presentation from Interim City Manager Peggy Smith regarding payments made to a part-time consultant without the council’s knowledge. Mayor Will Skinner (left) instructed Smith to investigate further with the support of councilors, including Samantha Ortis and Steve Hougen. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

At least $3,450 was paid to a part-time economic development consultant by the city of Granite Shoals after the City Council was told he would be paid by an anonymous donor, Interim City Manager Peggy Smith told the council at its regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 23. 

The council agreed to hire the consultant after then-City Manager Jeff Looney said he found a group of donors that would foot the bill for the $90-an-hour position. 

“This was something that wasn’t truly disclosed until after Jeff (Looney) left,” Smith said. Looney was fired on June 14 over another matter. 

Looney pitched the idea of bringing in a consultant at a council meeting on March 29. The job was to aid in wastewater development and sewer services planning and paid $90 an hour at 15 hours a week for roughly three months. Council members pushed back against the idea, some offering harsh criticism.

At the March 29 meeting, Councilor Samantha Ortis pointed out that the council had agreed to Looney’s high salary and a subsequent $37,000 a year raise because he said he had the experience necessary to work with wastewater management and sewer services.

Councilor Phil Ort echoed those concerns, saying that Granite Shoals  paid more for administration than communities of comparable size. The matter was tabled in a 5-1 vote. 

Looney put the issue back on the agenda for the April 12 meeting, when he told the council a group of anonymous donors was willing to pay the consultant’s fee. The council then unanimously voted to hire the part-time consultant for three months. 

Mayor Skinner told that neither he nor the council had any knowledge that the city paid any amount to the consultant until Smith brought documentation forward prior to the Aug. 23 council meeting.

A disagreement between individuals in the group donating the money caused the commitment to fall through, Smith said.

“When it came time to process the invoices, Looney told Susan to run the check,” Smith said. Susan Nevills is the Granite Shoals city accountant and current interim city secretary.

The council went into executive session to discuss the matter with City Attorney Joshua Katz. 

After reconvening in open session, Mayor Skinner instructed Smith to investigate further and gather all materials and information regarding work done by the consultant and how that person was paid.


Council says goodbye to Granite Shoals Police Chief Gary Boshears
Granite Shoals Police Chief Gary Boshears (center) poses alongside City Council members after his last council meeting. Boshears accepted a position as Lago Vista police chief and will be leaving on Aug. 31. Mayor Will Skinner (left) expressed his gratitude for Boshears’ 16 years of service along with Councilor Samantha Ortis, Councilor Steve Hougen, Councilor Eddie McCoy, and Councilor Phil Ort. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

In other business, the council said goodbye to Granite Shoals Police Chief Gary Boshears. It was the last meeting he would attend after nearly 17 years with the city. Boshears accepted the position of Lago Vista police chief on Aug. 4 and was officially appointed as chief on Aug. 18. His last day with the Granite Shoals Police Department will be Aug. 31, at which point, GSPD Capt. John Ortis will assume the role of police chief. Ortis was hired by Interim City Manager Peggy Smith. He is married to Councilor Samantha Ortis.

Boshears not only served as police chief, he also assisted the city during council meetings after Looney was fired in June. He was integral in the formation of the city’s fiscal year 2022-23 budget along with Smith and Fire Chief Tim Campbell.

Smith lamented that an award she ordered for Boshears failed to arrive in time for the meeting but voiced her gratitude for his service.

“Thank you, Gary. We do very much appreciate you, and we are going to miss you,” she said.

Councilor Steve Hougen rose to his feet to applaud Boshears for his service and was followed in the standing ovation by all those in attendance at City Hall.

“This has really been the highlight of my life,” Boshears said. “I always said, if I ever left here, I hoped to leave it a better place than I found it, and, hopefully, y’all feel like that’s the case.”