Watters criticizes foe in upcoming City Council election

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Carrie Ann Watters, a candidate for the Ward 4 seat on the Pawhuska City Council, last week told the Journal-Capital that she thinks her opponent, Rodger Milleson, would act as a “mouthpiece” on the council for current councilman John Brazee, who is not seeking re-election.

“First of all, I’m running against Mr. Milleson, but Brazee is his campaign manager,” Watters said in an email message to the newspaper. “Brazee wants him in there so he can be privy to city business. Milleson will be Brazee’s mouthpiece.”

Watters and Milleson are scheduled to face off in a Feb. 9 primary. They are the only candidates for the Ward 4 seat, so the issue should be settled that day.

Milleson is a former member of the council, having lost a re-election bid in 2020 to Steve Tolson for the at-large seat. Milleson is also a friend of Brazee, who decided not to seek re-election after receiving a letter from lawyer and former Ward 2 Councilman Steve Holcombe, in which Holcombe said he was representing Watters and would be prepared to challenge the legality of Brazee’s candidacy on the grounds that he was not actually a resident of Pawhuska.

Brazee said he thought he could win a legal challenge, but said he would not seek re-election because he lacked the money to litigate the residency issue. Milleson declared his candidacy after Brazee decided not to run.

Contacted by the Journal-Capital, Brazee acknowledged he will help Milleson but denied that he is managing the campaign.

“I don’t think Milleson needs a campaign manager. He’s a grown man,” Brazee said. “I don’t know where she gets her information, but it’s not accurate.”

Milleson also rejected Watters’ characterization of his relationship with Brazee.

“That was the most uninformed comment that I have ever heard about me,” Milleson said, adding that anyone who actually knows him “would know how uninformed it is.”

“But I’m not running from John’s voting record, either,” Milleson said. He said he does not know Watters.

Watters also told the Journal-Capital that she has been “outspoken from the beginning” about Brazee being on the council the past three years. She said Brazee “knew” that he lived outside Ward 4 when he filed to seek election three years ago.

Brazee denied that he knew any such thing. He recalled that he consulted someone who worked in the Osage County Election Board office at the time, and he consulted with Larry Eulert, who was interim city manager.

“There were no falsities at all,” Brazee said.

In addition to criticizing Brazee and Milleson, Watters offered the view that Interim City Manager Tonya Bright and Interim Police Chief Lorrie Hennesy were “handpicked” by the current council and “not qualified.”

Bright said she didn’t consider Watters’ opinion of her a secret.

“She put that on Facebook. I’ve seen that,” Bright said.

Hennesy said she had read online posts by Watters about her, and had received personal messages from Watters online.

“I’m just as certified as any other officer in the state of Oklahoma,” Hennesy said, recalling she once posted online an image of her CLEET (Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training) card in an attempt to satisfy Watters’ concerns.

Watters included a claim to have directly questioned Brazee about his residency status.

“I questioned Brazee myself about his lie and he smirked and said he kept a cot in the back room of his garage,” Watters said. “He got away with 3 years of chaos. Brazee needs to be taken out of the picture completely.”

Brazee responded that he has never had an in-person conversation with Watters and only recalls seeing her twice. There was no conversation either time, he said. Brazee added that he didn’t know how he could have “smirked” at Watters in any online exchange.

“I don’t even know how to put a 'smirky' face on the Internet,” he said.

Watters said she had received information about some city personnel matters from former Pawhuska Police Chief Nicholas Mahoney, and she expressed the view that bad things would not have happened if her lawyer, Holcombe, was still a member of the City Council.

“If Steve Holcombe had been in office none of this would have happened,” Watters said. “He knows the charter and ordinances up and down, back to back.”

In more than one message, Watters expressed a concern about what she called “nepotism” at City Hall.

“Nepotism runs rampant at City Hall,” Watters said.

The Journal-Capital talked about the issue with Bright, who said she had examined relationships and not found a problem.

“I have looked at our handbook and what it says, and we have not broken any laws,” Bright said.