Former City of Austin employee speaks out about work environment

(ABC 6 News) – It was standing room only inside Coffee House on Main in Austin Thursday morning. People came to hear what former employee Dave Merril had to say about how things are being run in the city they live in.

Merril said when he started as parks director a little over a year ago, he was asked by city administrator Craig Clark to pick a side. One side being the park board and the other side being the side of Clark and the mayor.

“You can’t tell me that. Honestly you can’t tell me that. On any level. And two, I’m new. I don’t even know enough about the sides to pick one. And 3 why are their sides there should be any sides to this,” said Merril.

There’s a dispute over who answers to who. One charter says that parks and rec has to answer to the park board the other charter says that parks and rec need to answer directly to city officials like the administrator and the council.

We reached out to city administrator Clark he declined an interview, but in a statement, he said, “There were clear differences of opinion regarding how the city’s charter impacted the operations of the parks, recreation and forestry department. The mayor and city council are the citizens representatives and thereby hold final accountability for the city of Austin.”

Dave says that this has created a toxic work environment and the reason he has resigned along with two other park board members.

“That was the stopping point for me where I couldn’t get things done,” said Merril.

But the story doesn’t end there. A few days before Dave’s last day on the job he sent an email to city council members and the mayor with his concerns about how things were being run at city hall. The next day, he was locked out of the building before being told by human resources to pack up his office. Three days before he was set to leave the job.

This didn’t sit well with some at the meeting.

“I’m really concerned for the absolute leadership at the top. He’s not the only one leaving. That’s news to me. What other things are not being addressed? What other city employees are not having their needs met. Not having their voices heard,” said Deanna Jean Ryther.

You might be wondering if Dave is leaving town for another job, then why is he holding this meeting well he still cares about the city.

“I feel like if I just walked away not would happen maybe nothing would change. I just kind of wanted to be a part of the solution long-term,” said Merril.

After hearing Dave’s side of the story many at the meeting plan on attending next week’s city council meeting to get to the bottom it.