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Lake Dallas city manager terminated less than a year into job

The Lake Dallas City Council voted unanimously during a special meeting Tuesday morning to terminate City Manager Matt Shaffstall's contract less than a year in.

Matt ShaffstallCourtesy photo
Matt Shaffstall
Courtesy photo

The move comes after the council decided to place Shaffstall on paid administrative leave during its last regular meeting earlier this month. He will remain on paid leave until June 30 and will receive severance pay, car allowances and health insurance for the following three months.

The city sent out a news release with the following statement from Mayor Michael Barnhart:

"During Mr. Shaffstall's short tenure with the city, he has been instrumental in some important changes, including the hiring of a new police chief, new planning director and a new city secretary. However, over the last few months and after several opportunities to evaluate Mr. Shaffstall's performance, it became clear the current City Council desired to go in a different direction with the leadership of the city staff."

According to the release, the city's contract with Shaffstall allows council members to terminate it without cause. The council said the termination was not related to recent news stories outlining potential issues at Willow Park, the Parker County city for which Shaffstall previously worked.

“The City Council is aware of the public allegations relating to Mr. Shaffstall made by a former council member in a city for which he used to work,” Barnhart said in the news release. “The council wants to make it clear this decision had nothing to do with any such allegations. This decision is based solely on Mr. Shaffstall’s performance with the city of Lake Dallas.”

The council voted unanimously in July 2016 to hire Shaffstall after a months-long search by Keller-based firm Strategic Government Services. He was in the middle of a two-year contract with a $95,000 annual base salary.

He replaced Lake Dallas Police Chief Nick Ristagno, who had been serving as the interim city manager. Many community members took issue with Ristagno’s dual role as police chief and city manager, saying it violated state law because one position reported to the other.

Julie Mathews was the Lake Dallas mayor at the time of Shaffstall’s hiring and said he passed extensive background checks.

“He was hired as a change agent,” Mathews said. “His task was to improve operations at City Hall and he made great strides in less than a year.”

Like the city news release, she pointed to Shaffstall’s hiring of new personnel as a sign of success. She said she believed the decision to terminate Shaffstall might be politically motivated.

“This is another dark mark for Lake Dallas,” Mathews said. “He should’ve been able to finish out his contract. This, to me, has the earmarks of something personal.”

Mayor Pro Tem Andi Nolan stood by the mayor’s statement on Tuesday and said the council will take its next steps at the regular meeting on Thursday night.

“We’re already moving in a positive direction, and we want to keep that momentum going,” Nolan said.

In the Thursday meeting, council members will discuss the process of appointing an interim city manager and begin the search process for a permanent replacement. Currently, City Secretary Codi Delcambre serves as the acting city manager.

For more information or to see the meeting agenda, visit www.lakedallas.com/AgendaCenter/City-Council-7.

CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.