Pawhuska councilwoman resigns

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

At its latest meeting Monday night, Pawhuska City Council formally received and accepted the resignation of Vice Mayor/Councilwoman Cathy Worten.

Worten has held the Council’s Ward 2 seat since 2010 after formerly serving as the At-Large councilor. She is the wife of Jesse Worten III, the Pawhuska city attorney — whose apparently alcohol-related car accident has spawned a chain-reaction of municipal government fallout locally.

During a council meeting held four days after the July 3 driving incident, City Manager Paul McAlexander announced that the city attorney would be taking a two-month leave of absence. McAlexander said the leave was “medical-related.”

Subsequent release of a police-camera recording made on the day of the incident sparked considerable reaction from citizens due to its revelations of McAlexander instructing officers to file no charges against the city attorney. The city manager is seen telling officers to detain Worten at the police station until he could be picked up by his wife — the then-city councilwoman.

As local pressure mounted, the city council allowed members of the public to comment on the situation during a July 21 meeting. While citizens expressed varying degrees of sympathy for the city attorney, most were outraged by the apparent attempt to offer preferential treatment by not formally arresting Worten — who, a few hours after the accident, was cited in a municipal charge of driving under the influence.

The July 21 meeting ended with a two-hour executive session to discuss the “job performance” of the city manager. Following a second closed-door session last Tuesday (July 29), the council voted, 4-0, to reprimand McAlexander “for the incidents of July 3.”

McAlexander also was ordered to be suspended, without pay, for two weeks. (The city manager, who is currently serving the suspension, was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting.)

Also on Monday, council members received an update on a letter they asked to be drafted by the acting city attorney (Bob Wilson) to the owner of the Triangle Building. The letter expresses safety-related concerns the city has regarding the current condition of the vacant downtown structure.

In other action, the council approved resolutions and a proclamation related to the calling of a Nov. 4 special election for extending a municipal sales tax levy used for repairs of local streets and sewer projects.

Council also voted for four recently-replaced storm sirens to be declared surplus property in order that they could be donated for use by two neighboring Osage County towns, Barnsdall and Shidler.