The story beyond the story in the Dan Scott Appeal Hearing is that the appeal process is alive and well in our state government. Scott, the Altus City Electrical Superintendent, used his right as a City employee to appeal a recommendation by Mayor David Webb to terminate him.
Scott has been on administrative leave with pay, since early spring while the Mayor conducted an investigation regarding Scott’s conduct. The findings of the investigation have not been released to the public. As the investigation period concluded, there were issues regarding the hiring and payment of a special attorney for the City of Altus in the Scott matter. The City Council found out about the hiring of another attorney and the use of their Council funds by examining the Consent Agenda line items.
The Council delayed approving the payment for the special attorney, thus delaying Scott’s Appeal Hearing at least once. The hearing was finally set for Saturday, July 21, at 9 a.m. The selection of the City’s Legal Advisor, John Vincent, to preside over the Appeal Hearing was approved by Council. Mayor Webb recused himself and Vincent and Vice Mayor Rick Henry conducted the proceedings.
The Council held an executive session to discuss the procedures for the Appeal Hearing. Then Scott and his attorneys were to decide whether they wished to hold the actual Appeal Hearing during executive session or in open session. One of Scott’s attorneys, Darrell Latham, told Vincent that they wished to hold the hearing in executive session. At that point, the members of the public, the media and all but the City Clerks were asked to leave the Council Chambers.
In what may be best described as multiple executive sessions, the Council walked repeatedly past their constituents on their way to deliberate upstairs in the conference room. As the morning hours dwindled away, the public checked their cell phones, chatted and waited to be called back into the Chambers. Here’s a little insight into what the Council was considering during those conversations with one another.
Council member Jack Smiley said, “The council was kept virtually in the dark during the last five months…As time went by, this issue became less about Dan Scott and more about the City’s actions.” Smiley explained, “The council expressed concerns early on that Mayor Webb was not following past practice or the Policies and Procedures the City operates under…A few of us on the council have talked with a lawyer that indicated City policies and state statutes may have been violated. These actions have cost the citizens of Altus valuable resources that could have been better utilized elsewhere…Sadly, there could be more repercussions due to the City’s actions. Maybe it’s better to deal with them now to protect the future.”
Shortly after 12 noon the Council members had each made their own decisions.
In open session, a motion was made to reinstate Scott as Electrical Superintendent due to proper procedures not being followed. The Council Chambers was silent.
The clerk called the members’ names and received six firmly stated “Yes” votes in a row. They were cast by Chad Osborne, Scot Simco, Perry Shelton, Rick Steen, Jack Smiley, and Rick Henry. Mike Patterson then gave a “No” vote and B.F. Jr. Rowland added another “Yes” to make it seven to one. Scott was to be reinstated.
Scott said through Latham, “I appreciate the time the City Council spent on this effort.” Scott added personally, “I’m looking forward to going back to work.”
The Council members and members of the City administration were asked if they wished to give input in this article. Mayor Webb replied, “I was not a part of the deliberation and there was no indication as to the process violation given in open session. All I do know is that Dan Scott was reinstated without testimony being given to Council.”
Council member and Vice Mayor, Rick Henry explained, “We didn’t even really get to Dan Scott. Dan Scott didn’t win today, the process did.
Chad Osborne said it best when he said, ‘If we let this go on, we have set precedence that this is the new way for the city to deal with personnel issues.’ Council couldn’t get beyond the process used and really didn’t even get to the evidence.”