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Questions Remain After Fort Worth CFO’s Firing

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jason Allen
Jason came to North Texas after working as a reporter for four y...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The woman who held the purse strings to Fort Worth’s $1.4 billion budget said she was treated like a criminal during her sudden removal from city hall last month. It’s one of the first public details of Lena Ellis’ departure, which the city manager’s office refuses to answer questions about.

Ellis’ characterization came out after she invoked a section of the city charter sources told CBS11 no one at city hall ever remembered seeing used before. It allows department heads to demand a written reason for their removal, and a public hearing before the city council. Ellis did not appear in person at the hearing Tuesday, but filed a 73-page response to the city’s letter.

That letter showed Ellis believed she was fired for a payroll problem in the city in early January. Thousands of employees were not paid on time when the city’s payroll wasn’t released properly. The explanation Ellis demanded from city manager Tom Higgins though also says she failed to understand the organization, and could not manage personnel issues.

In performance reviews obtained by CBS11, Ellis achieved the highest possible rating of “Distinguished” employee in 2010/2011.

In her most recent review, however, under new supervisor and assistant city manager Susan Alanis, Ellis was marked under the second lowest score of “Needing improvement.”

Ellis concluded in her letter that the move was due to a “changing of the guard,” but said she was given “death by a thousand cuts,” rather than a severance package like others at the executive level. Documents show the city made some type of offer to Ellis, that included an agreement not to sue, but she did not sign it and the offer was withdrawn.

After removing Ellis, the city promoted Horatio Porter, who served as a budget officer in the city, to CFO. No one in the city would explain why there was no search to fill the position, something sources said has always been done to fill positions in the past.