McCartney tabbed as interim

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital
McCartney tabbed as interim

Last week’s announcement that Paul McAlexander is retiring concluded a month-long series of closed-door sessions at which Pawhuska City Council members had been considering disciplinary actions against the longtime city manager.

By a 4-0 vote Thursday, councilors acknowledged the city official’s retirement and authorized a severance-compensation payment for McAlexander amounting to three months of his regular salary.

The council then held an executive session which resulted in its hiring of Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Director Michael McCartney to fill the city manager position — at least on an interim basis.

Mayor Roger Taylor said council may consider conducting a search for a new city manager in around 90 days.

McCartney already serves as the city’s economic development director and has been actively involved with municipal issues throughout McAlexander’s 10-year tenure as city manager.

McAlexander did not attend Thursday’s special council meeting. A few hours earlier, however, he’d made an appearance in Osage County District Court to be arraigned on a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of a public officer.

The charge against the 64-year-old city manager was filed last week in connection with actions he had taken following an alleged drunken-driving accident involving Pawhuska City Attorney Jesse Worten III.

Shortly after the July 3 incident, a police video was widely circulated via social and other media. The video, which had been shot by an officer using a uniform camera, showed McAlexander telling local police to not arrest the city attorney.

Instead, the city manager instructs officers to hold Worten at the police station until he could be picked up there by his wife, Cathy Worten — who, at the time, was Pawhuska’s Ward 2 city councilwoman.

There was significant public outcry following the incident as many citizens expressed concerns over the special treatment apparently being offered to Worten.

After spending several hours in non-public discussions about the city manager’s involvement in the matter, council members voted in late July to formally reprimand McAlexander. Councilors also ordered him to serve a two-week, unpaid suspension.

The charge against McAlexander was filed Aug. 18 following an investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

A week later, the council held its third executive session to discuss the city manager situation. Twice during the two-hour talks, McAlexander was called upon to meet with council members and acting city attorney W. Robert Wilson. Afterwards, the mayor said there was no decision to be announced but that another special meeting would be held Thursday.

McAlexander pleaded not guilty to the obstruction charge during the afternoon appearance before Rogers County Special Judge Terrell S. Crosson, who was assigned to handle the case as a result of recusals by the local judges. Accompanying McAlexander to the Pawhuska courthouse were two attorneys — Bransford Shoemake and Rod Ramsey.

The former city official remains free on a $1,000 bond. McAlexander is due back in court on Oct. 30.

Jesse Worten was eventually cited in a municipal charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. That charge remains pending as he reportedly has been on a two-month medical leave of absence.

Cathy Worten resigned her council seat in early August.

McAlexander had been Pawhuska city manager for slightly more than a decade. He was hired for the post following the death of his predecessor, William “Blackie” Ricketts, in June 2004.