City man­ager post open again in Bethany

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOSH DULANEY Staff Writer jdu­laney@ok­la­homan.com

BETHANY — Of­fi­cials here are fin­ish­ing the year the way they started — without a full-time city man­ager.

Fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a claim she made against Coun­cil­man Steve Palmer, the City Coun­cil on Oct. 29 voted to fire City Man­ager Janet Smith, who was Bethany’s third full-time city man­ager in nearly three years.

In­clud­ing in­terim and act­ing of­fi­cials ro­tated in from other de­part­ments, the city man­ager’s of­fice has been filled by six dif­fer­ent peo­ple since early 2016.

The turmoil hasn't been lim­ited to the city man­ager post. Last sum­mer, David Buchanan was ter­mi­nated from his role as pub­lic works direc­tor, and Jon Robin­son was ter­mi­nated from his po­si­tion as fi­nance direc­tor.

On Tues­day, the City Coun­cil ap­pointed Po­lice Chief Phil Cole as in­terim city man­ager. He has pre­vi­ously served as act­ing city man­ager.

“Cer­tainly we would like to have some long-term sta­bil­ity,” Coun­cil­man Jeff Knapp told The Ok­la­homan. “The bot­tom line is, and I typ­i­cally would not speak for the coun­cil, all the city ser­vices are con­tin­u­ing.”

In the case of Smith, the vote to dis­miss her was 5-1 with Coun­cil­man Cur­tis Moore vot­ing against the ter­mi­na­tion and Palmer ab­stain­ing.

The coun­cil had voted unan­i­mously to hire Smith in May, set­ting her pay at $120,000 a year. As part of her ter­mi­na­tion, she re­ceived a lump sum pay­ment for six months of her salary.

The dis­pute be­tween Smith and Palmer, the coun­cil mem­ber, re­mains un­clear.

How­ever, at the be­gin­ning of an Oct. 16 meet­ing of the coun­cil, Mayor K.P. West­more­land is­sued an apol­ogy to Palmer, say­ing Smith at­tempted to with­draw the com­plaint, but a Tulsa at­tor­ney had com­pleted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and found the com­plaint to be un­sub­stan­ti­ated.

“Mr. Palmer, I’m sorry that you and

your fam­ily were forced to have to deal with this try­ing and stress­ful sit­u­a­tion,” West­more­land said. “I ap­pre­ci­ate how you have han­dled this ex­pe­ri­ence and how you have en­dured the past few weeks with the ut­most pro­fes­sion­al­ism.”

Knapp made the mo­tion to ter­mi­nate Smith's em­ploy­ment, and Coun­cil­man John Her­ren sec­onded the mo­tion.

“There was con­sid­er­able dis­cus­sion in the ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion, and that’s the way the vote went,” Knapp said.

Turnover in the city man­ager post be­gan in early 2016, af­ter the re­tire­ment of John Shugart, who had been with the city of Bethany for 27, the last 10 as city man­ager.

J.D. Cox came from Ne­braska to fill Shugart’s role, but re­signed Jan. 4 this year af­ter a brief sus­pen­sion with pay, and a pro­posal to re­view his work per­for­mance.

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