City manager hiring process falls short

Robert Smith

The Pawhuska City Council voted 5-0 last Thursday evening, in an emergency meeting, to withdraw its offer of employment as city manager to Anthony Rogers, 46, a former deputy chief of the Ponca City Police Department.

The council cited failed negotiations as the reason for withdrawing the offer, but left the door open for Rogers to approach city government and work things out.

“Sorry it turned out this way,” Councilor Mark Buchanan said. ” I was bragging (about hiring Rogers).”

City Attorney John Heskett said Tuesday of this week that Rogers had notified him by email that he had no interest in further discussions.

The Journal-Capital attempted to contact Rogers via a text message and phone calls, but received no reply.

The city council had voted 5-0 on July 30 to offer the job of city manager to Rogers, who was one of three finalists it interviewed in a special meeting that lasted nearly three hours. The council voted immediately after hearing from all of the finalists, who were reportedly drawn from a pool of some 10 applicants for the position.

By Monday, Aug. 3, details regarding the hiring of Rogers were still reportedly being worked out, and it was not yet known when he might report for work at City Hall. Pawhuska offered Rogers a salary of $70,000, with a six-month severance.

Rogers said the morning of Aug. 4 that his contract with Pawhuska had not yet been finalized.

Rogers retired in 2018 as deputy chief of the Ponca City police after 20 years with the department. Since retiring from police duties, Rogers has worked as chief of staff for Bethany municipal government, and he has most recently been supervisor of Support Services for the Ponca City police, which is a civilian-side position.

“I think Pawhuska is absolutely poised for great growth in the future,” Rogers told the Journal-Capital on Aug. 3. “I think Pawhuska is in a position that it has absolutely great opportunities.”

Rogers would have followed former City Manager Dave Neely in Pawhuska government’s leading executive position. Neely resigned March 13, following an executive session of the city council. City Clerk Tonya Bright has filled in as interim city manager.

Neely had been city manager since Aug. 1, 2019. Before the hiring of Neely, there had been an extended period when interim managers served Pawhuska, following the resignation in late October 2017 of City Manager Mike McCartney.