Palestine’s Assistant City Manager and Finance Director, Edena Atmore, has been named as one of 17 city of Hutto employees involved in an unauthorized severance deal.
Atmore, 60, was assistant city manager for Hutto, a suburb of Austin with a population of about 26,000, prior to coming to Palestine.
Atmore is currently on leave from her position with the city of Palestine.
“We are looking into these allegations at this time,” Palestine Mayor Steve Prelsey said.
Hutto city administrators were unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.
According to an article in the Austin American Statesman last week, the Hutto City Council voided Atmore’s and 16 more of its former city employee severance agreements made between 2017 and 2019 which were never taken to a vote or approved by the council, as required by the city charter.
The Hutto City Council passed an ordinance Aug. 13 voiding the severance agreements totaling approximately $400,000. The city of Hutto is awaiting the results of a forensic audit before deciding to request repayment of the money. The council also approved releases of any nondisclosure agreements that may have been made in order for the former employees to talk about their experiences as employees of Hutto.
An article on KXAN.com <http://KXAN.com> reported that the unapproved severances began shortly after former city manager Odis Jones was hired in 2017, signing the first unapproved agreement Feb. 16, 2017.
Atmore was terminated for undisclosed reasons in 2019, and received an unapproved severance payment of $59,230.
The KXAN article reported that questions arose during the Aug. 13 council meeting as to whether any of the city officials who approved the agreements could face criminal investigations.
The Palestine City Council members approved hiring Atmore unanimously in March.
Atmore, who came to the city via recruiting firm Strategic Government Resources, was originally considered to work in the finance and billing departments.
When city officials learned of Atmore's experience in city government – more than a decade in city management and finance – they decided to tap her for both jobs.
“She's extremely intelligent, has a lot of experience, and is very friendly,” Senior Accountant Andrew Sibai told the Herald-Press in March.
One of her first priorities, Atmore told the Herald-Press, was be to improve communication and transparency in city government.
“One of my goals wherever I go is to win the 'Transparency in Government' award from the state,” she said. “If they haven't won it yet, they will once I'm done.”
Having worked in larger cities like Dallas, Austin, and New York, Atmore said she was ready for the small-town feel of Palestine.