Asst. to Editor
The Altus City Policies and Procedures Task Force met on Thursday, Aug. 2, at 4 p.m. The agenda included discussion and voting to recommend to the City Council the hiring of John Vincent as a legal consultant for the City. Vincent would be paid on an hourly basis. In the agenda for the next City Council meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 7, the amount of pay is stipulated as $75 per hour and expenses. The Council has not yet approved Vincent’s services beyond his presiding over the recent Dan Scott Appeal Hearing.
During the committee meeting, it became clear to Task Force member Jack Smiley that Vincent had already spent time on City work with City Attorney, Catherine Coke. They had both been working on the proposed changes to the City’s Policies and Procedures Manual and had signed them. Smiley inquired how Vincent could have already been working with her since the Council has not yet approved his legal services.
Among the changes, one of those proposed had to do with procurement. It was to be located in Sec. 2-85, and titled “Emergency and after-hours purchases”. It was proposed that professional services from lawyers would be included in the purchases that could be made without approval from the City Council, under these emergency conditions. These purchases would be limited to $10,000, and stated they “shall have no restrictions”.
Also a proposed change prepared by Coke and Vincent was a section pertaining to the employment of Department Heads. It read, “Section 101 above the list of Department Heads, Under Title 11 O.S.A. Section 9-105 (1), the Mayor has the sole legal authority to approve personnel actions on City employees including hiring, transferring, promoting, firing, etc., except personnel actions on those employees (Department Heads) listed below which require Council confirmation.” Smiley remarked, “I believe employees still had a right to appeal if fired by the Mayor.”
The two proposed changes, the ability of the City administration being able to hire legal consultants on an emergency basis, and the Mayor having sole hiring and firing, caused Smiley to suggest an alternate plan for changes to the City’s Policies and Procedures Manual. Smiley said he wished to get a manual to use as a template from the Oklahoma Municipal League (OML). The City Council could then submit it to legal counsel to have them check it out for desired policies and procedures.
City Council member Chad Osborne commented on the proposed changes. He said, “In the City Manager form of government, that person would answer openly to the City Council. Since the Mayor, in our form of government, is elected, he doesn’t answer to anyone until election time. He can’t be given ultimate authority without checks and balances.”