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Small Town Political Sniping Turns Ugly

September 23, 1995

GUN BARREL CITY, Texas (AP) _ ``We shoot straight,″ is the motto of Gun Barrel City.

And while squabbling officials have yet to take it literally, recent events in this small town sound more like examples of big-city political skullduggery than goings-on in a town with more city council members than traffic lights.

In the past two weeks:

_Mayor Joe Agnes kicked in the door to City Administrator Allan Taylor’s office and told him to clean out his desk;

_A judge reinstated Taylor pending a hearing;

_Taylor returned to work with a phalanx of armed bodyguards;

_Taylor fired police chief Tommy Smith and hired a new top cop and three other officers;

_Taylor found a homemade bomb _ a glass jar filled with gasoline and with nails taped to it _ under his car on Tuesday. The Texas Rangers and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating.

``Everything has gone amok,″ said Agnes, a 63-year-old retired Safeway employee and grandfather of 12.

John Tankursley, a retired engineer who serves on the City Council, says he’s having trouble sorting everything out: ``If I could put it in a calculus equation, I could (understand).″

Though Taylor declined to speak with The Associated Press, the turmoil is the topic around town.

``We’ve got us a city manager ... who’s goofier than a junkyard dog,″ said Dwaine Walters as he stirred peanuts into his hot fudge sundae at the Dairy Queen. ``I don’t know why he was hired in the first place. He is against everything everybody wants. It seems like he just thrives on causing problems.″

Taylor was hired as dog catcher and building inspector in 1993. The council promoted him to city administrator last year. Agnes, a former council member, was elected mayor in 1994 of the lakeside community of 3,500 people about 50 miles southeast of Dallas.

By most accounts, the friction between Taylor and Agnes started soon after the election, when Taylor canceled a state grant to the city that he said Agnes had no authority to apply for.

While Taylor and three council members are suing Agnes, saying he overstepped the bounds of his job and calling him a ``megalomaniacal tyrant dictating the law of Gun Barrel as his own police state,″ business leaders are circulating a petition demanding Taylor’s removal.

But council member W.C. Brooke, a Taylor supporter, says too much has been made of the feud.

``It’s just typical small-town government where you’ve got two factions,″ he said. ``It’s just like what’s going on in local government in every small town in Texas _ except for that bomb thing.″

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