Godley council member arrested outside city hall before first meeting since shutdown

Amanda McCoy/amccoy@star-telegram.com

Godley city council member Jennifer Thompson was arrested Tuesday evening shortly before the council’s first meeting since mass resignations triggered the shutdown of city hall.

A video posted to a Facebook group from an anonymous user and provided to the Star-Telegram by multiple residents at Tuesday’s meeting shows Thompson sitting in the back of a Godley police car in front of city hall. Interim police chief Matthew Cantrell said Thompson faces charges of tampering with government records. He would not elaborate.

Thompson has served on the council since May and is being held at Johnson County Jail in Cleburne.

Residents packed the council chambers for the first meeting in a month.

An agenda wasn’t posted for the last meeting scheduled in January, rendering the council unable to meet under the Texas Open Meetings Act, which requires local governments to post agendas 72 hours in advance. Two special called meetings couldn’t meet the quorum requirement because Mayor Acy McGehee and council members Jan Whitehead and Maryann Matthews didn’t show up.

As residents shuffled into the building, a sign still hung on the door telling residents that city hall was closed due to a staffing shortage. Thompson’s seat was the only one empty on the council bench.

And in the room, there was palpable anger over the state of the Johnson County city of less than 2,000 residents. The council heard from seven people in its public comment segment at the beginning of the meeting.

“We have a serious lack of transparency in this city,” one resident said.

“Your silence has spoken volumes,” another resident told the council.

At one point, McGehee got up and yelled at a resident when the crowd became restless, with some claiming that a woman who was criticizing council member Michael Papenfuss had spoke longer than her allotted time.

“Silence,” he said as he pointed a finger at the resident.

As the council got into discussing city business, a shout rung out from the parts of the crowd that poured into the hallway: “Do y’all mind speaking up?”

One resident got up and told McGehee he needed to cancel the charges against Thompson. The crowd murmured that the timing of her arrest was suspicious.

Council members considered an agenda item to place the former city attorney, the former city administrator, the former court clerk and the former city secretary on a “do not hire” list. With Thompson absent, the council rejected the proposal and instead approved a motion to make the four eligible for re-hire.

McGehee told the Star-Telegram following the meeting that he hoped to open the city hall by the end of the week or early next week but that there was still a staffing shortage.

Four of Godley’s five council member positions are up for re-election May 6. Filing ends Feb. 17. Council will meet in a special called meeting on at 5 p.m. Feb. 14.