Pawhuska police chief reinstated

Robert Smith

PAWHUSKA — Former Police Chief Nick Silva was reinstated to his position Wednesday evening after the Pawhuska City Council met and appointed a new interim city manager, who made it her first duty to give Silva his job back after several days of controversy.

Pawhuska city councilors met in closed session for roughly 40 minutes Wednesday afternoon, before naming Tonya Bright to serve as interim city manager until Aug. 1. The meeting began at 4 p.m.

Bright previously worked for seven and a half years as administrative assistant to the city manager. She is to manage city operations until permanent city manager Dave Neely takes over on Aug. 1.

Bright’s first official act of note was to reinstate Silva as Pawhuska’s police chief. Former Interim City Manager Larry Eulert and former Assistant City Manager Rex Wikel unceremoniously fired Silva on June 28, prompting a wave of public reaction.

Eulert and Wikel resigned in the aftermath of their dismissal of Silva, and the City Council needed to appoint someone to manage the city for the rest of July. The vote to appoint Bright was a unanimous 5-0.

“At the time she seemed like the most qualified person and we’re very happy with her,” Pawhuska Mayor Roger Taylor said in explanation of the council’s decision. Immediately after the council voted and adjourned its meeting, questions arose about Silva’s future and the leadership of the police department.

Charlie Cartwright, administrator at the Osage County jail and a trusted member of Sheriff Eddie Virden’s leadership team, had stepped in as an interim police chief for Pawhuska last Friday. Cartwright was on-hand for the announcement of Silva’s reinstatement and the two men shook hands in acknowledgement that Cartwright was handing the department back to Silva.

“That will be a decision for our interim city manager,” Mayor Roger Taylor said, when questions arose immediately after the council session.

Bright and City Attorney John Heskett met with Silva, and Bright then joined Silva at the police department sally port for a public announcement of the reinstatement decision. Bright said she was acting “in the interest of fairness.”

“For the good of the city we need to work together in a positive manner,” Bright said.

Silva told reporters the department has work to do.

“We’re ready to go. We’re prepared for tomorrow,” he said, referring to the department’s responsibilities during Independence Day celebrations July 4. Silva said Sergeant Daniel Alden, who left the police department following his dismissal, is back on the force and the department’s emotional support dog, Ebony, will be returning. She had been in the care of municipal animal shelter volunteer Susie Owens since June 28, Silva said.

“We came out on top and we’re ready to move forward,” Silva said.