Pawhuska Police Chief Nick Silva told the Pawhuska Journal-Capital by telephone Friday morning that he had been dismissed from his job by interim city manager Larry Eulert and assistant city manager Rex Wikel.
Silva said the dismissal came in the aftermath of his recent termination of Assistant Chief Alton Horne for what Silva described as departmental policy violations that were documented, to include witness statements. Silva said he believed city hall was unhappy with his dismissal of Horne, and added that he had been concerned about what could happen because he let Horne go.
Silva said he also recently let another officer go. He had explained during recent conversations with the Journal-Capital that he was trying to bring a professional approach to the department.
Silva said that Eulert told him Friday morning, “I just don’t like the way the department is going.” Silva said he asked what avenue of appeal he has, and Wikel told him that he could contact his attorney and have that person get in touch with City Attorney John Heskett. The termination was immediate and Eulert and Wikel reportedly left the police station without clarifying who would be in charge.
Silva also commented on his dismissal in a post Friday morning on Facebook, asking the public to support the officers of the Pawhuska Police Department. Silva said in his post that he thought Wikel, who is a former Pawhuska police chief, might return to the job of police chief and depend on Heskett to shield him from questions and concerns. Silva followed Wikel as chief earlier this year, when city government decided to make Wikel an assistant city manager.
PPD officers and staff members reportedly had strong emotional reactions to the dismissal Friday morning.
“I’ve gone through three chiefs and this (Silva) is the best chief I’ve ever had,” dispatch supervisor Charli Collier said. Collier, who said she has been with the department for six years, said her colleagues were visibly distressed by what had happened. “I know all my dispatchers (are upset), and I see all my officers in tears.”
The Journal-Capital made telephone calls to both Heskett and Eulert, seeking comment about the dismissal of Silva. Heskett deferred to Eulert to provide information on behalf of city government.
Eulert said Friday afternoon that he had introduced Charlie Chartwright to the Pawhuska Police Department as its interim chief while city government looks for someone to hold the position on a longer-term basis. Cartwright, who has worked for the Osage County Sheriff’s Office, is starting right away at the PPD, Eulert said.
He added that the officers already knew Cartwright because of his work with the sheriff’s office and the introduction Friday afternoon of the new interim chief “went wonderful.”
“Absolutely not,” Eulert said, when asked if the termination of Silva had anything to do with Silva’s dismissal of Horne. “One had nothing to do with the other.”