MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 17, 2013

Rule blocks winner from council

As game ranger, victor barred from serving on Wagoner Council

— One of the winners of Wagoner’s City Council election was unable to take office Monday after it was determined he is barred by state law from taking office.

Ward I Councilor-elect Marvin Stanley, one of four candidates who competed for the post and the only political newcomer to win a council seat April 2, works as a state game ranger. As a sworn officer of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, he is considered by state law as an office holder.

State law prohibits most people from occupying two offices simultaneously. While the law has been amended over the years to allow some law enforcement officers to simultaneously hold an elected position, game rangers have yet to be included.

Stanley failed to respond to Phoenix inquiries Tuesday.

Wagoner Mayor James Jennings said he learned about the conflict a couple of days ago. Jennings said Stanley had been told by his superiors he was eligible to hold a municipal office under the agency’s rules.

After he won the April 2 election, Jennings said, Stanley was told he would have to relinquish his job if he was sworn in as a city councilor. Jennings said efforts are being made to make the legislative changes needed for Stanley to serve as city councilor.

“He has 30 days to get that done,” Jennings said, noting Stanley and wildlife officials are optimistic that can be accomplished. “If he can’t, then we have 60 days to appoint somebody. If we don’t appoint somebody, then we have 60 days to schedule a special election.”

Jennings said if Stanley is not seated for some reason during the next month, the most logical choice would be to appoint the runner-up. That would be John E. French, who trailed Stanley by 20 points in the April 2 election, earning 31.4 percent of the ballots.

“Elections are expensive,” Jennings said. “I would have no problem recommending him for an appointment — John served on the City Council before and did a good job.”

For now, Jennings said he and other councilors are waiting “for things to shake out.” But he is hoping for a quick resolution.

“It’s my understanding the (wildlife) department is working feverishly to get this done,” Jennings said. “We are right in the middle of our budget, and it’s a good time for new council members to take part in the process.”

Stanley’s 30 days, Jennings said, began running at noon Monday.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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