City attorney provides views on Brazee

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Pawhuska’s city attorney has provided city government with guidance about the issue of whether Ward 4 City Councilor John Brazee can and should be removed from his post because of questions about whether he is actually a resident of the city.

The Ward 4 seat is on the ballot in City Council elections this year and Brazee is not seeking re-election.

The Journal-Capital has learned that City Attorney John Heskett last week informed Interim City Manager Tonya Bright that the City Council has the discretion to hold a hearing and make a determination whether Brazee is a resident of Pawhuska, and whether he should be removed from office prior to the end of his term of office.

Pawhuska lawyer and political activist Steve Holcombe, who represents a candidate to succeed Brazee as Ward 4 councilor, has raised the issue of whether Brazee should be allowed to continue to serve.

Heskett advised city government that the legal power to make a determination about Brazee’s residency is vested solely with the City Council, and a court could have no jurisdiction until after an action by the council. Heskett also advised that it was unlikely, in the event the council chose not to act and Brazee chose not to step aside before the end of his term, that the council could be legally forced to take action.

With regard to Brazee’s assertion that his auto service shop on Lynn Avenue is his residency address for voting purposes, Heskett told city government that the fact the building is a shop does not, by itself, prevent it from being a residence.

Brazee began to formally assert that the shop was a residence after he had already been elected to the Ward 4 council seat. There had been questions about whether another property where he had resided was actually inside city limits. In regard to that property, Heskett advised city government that available evidence, taken as a whole, does not definitely establish whether it could be considered a city residence or not.

Brazee, who received a copy of a memo that Heskett sent to Interim City Manager Tonya Bright last week about the matter of his residency, said he thinks the details of the evidence and law that Heskett reviewed and explained tend to vindicate him.

“It ought to be up to the council. They’re the governing body,” Brazee said. “I’m just glad it’s all coming out.”