The public works superintendent for the City of Taylor, accused in a lawsuit of racial discrimination, has resigned in advance of a felony charge of selling city-owned scrap metal and pocketing $6,000.
Roger Walla, a city employee for the past 12 years, tendered his resignation on Oct. 3, a day before Taylor police arrested and charged him with theft by a public servant, a third degree felony, a city spokeswoman said Monday.
A conviction could bring a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. According to Williamson County Jail records, Walla posted a $10,000 bail and was released.
The city still faces fallout from Walla’s alleged decision on several occasions to prevent Jacky Jones, owner of a septic system servicing company, from dumping septic waste in the city’s Mustang Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
In a lawsuit filed in March 2017, Jones is asking Taylor for $241,740 in compensation for business he said he lost because his company was passed over in favor of businesses owned by white people.
“The suit is … set for trial next summer,” Roger Borgelt, the attorney for Jones, told The Texas Monitor Monday. Borgelt said as far as he could tell Jones’ case is not related to the felony theft charge against Walla.
Stacey Osborne, the city spokeswoman, said she would have to consult a city attorney before commenting on the lawsuit or the employees named in it. She did not reply further before this story was published.
Taylor police began an investigation last month when Walla reported a theft of scrap metal from the city’s scrap yard, according to his arrest affidavit. Walla allegedly told police he had for the past six years sold scrap collected from city projects five or six times a year to local dealers, the affidavit said.
According to the affidavit, Walla told police he believed there was no policy against him selling city scrap and that over the years he used the profits for Christmas gifts, alcohol and food for his employees. He also acknowledged spending some of the money on tobacco, meals and snacks for himself.
Walla, 48, told police he kept no records of the transactions, but investigators pieced together more than $5,000 in scrap sales to two local yards over the years. Walla turned over $1,100 in cash from his office safe, money he first said was from scrap sales and later said was his own, the affidavit said.
“Walla admitted to Taylor detectives that he failed to turn in the money to the city that he received from selling city scrap metal, and that he used a large portion of the cash received for personal expenditures and personal financial gain,” a police department press release said.
In the lawsuit, Jones said that since 2013 Walla and two other city workers had restricted his company to dumping once a week, while other companies faced no limitations.
During one exchange in 2013 outside a Taylor restaurant, according to the lawsuit filings, Walla cursed at Jones for going over the once-a-week limit he’d set. “What the [expletive] are you doing dumping 11 times in a month? I told you once a week,” the suit said. When Jones asked why he was limited, Walla snapped back, “Because that is all I’m going to let you dump. I don’t have to give you a reason.”
Jones said in the lawsuit he met with Noel Bernal, the assistant city manager, in January 2016 to complain about his treatment. The city, however, had promoted Walla to utility superintendent.
Walla and the two other employees, Joel Graham and former wastewater manager Danny Thomas, treated Jones in a “highly aggressive, verbally abusive and unprofessional” manner, the suit said. “The continued employment of these same responsible individuals who have also willfully discriminated against [Jones] makes the actions of [the city] all the more egregious and deplorable for continuing to allow city employee behavior that is, at the best reading, irresponsible on many levels.”
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].