City manager post open again in Bethany
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.