July 31, 2013

City manager Buckley resigns

Reason not stated; Coburn cites personnel issue

July 31, 2013 By D.E. Smoot Phoenix Staff Writer

— After meeting behind closed doors for more than an hour, Muskogee city councilors emerged from an executive session and quickly voted to accept the city manager’s resignation.

The unanimous vote came after councilors met twice to evaluate Greg Buckley’s performance. Muskogee’s elected representatives began discussing Buckley’s performance July 22, but they waited until Tuesday to complete the process while all councilors were present.

Councilors offered no insight into the evaluation, leaving City Hall immediately after the special meeting adjourned. There was no public discussion preceding their vote that would illuminate the circumstances that led to Buckley’s resignation.

Mayor Bob Coburn said the decision involved a personnel issue, and he declined to “go into it any further than that.” After some prompting, Coburn said he did appreciate the contributions Buckley made during his five-and-a-half-year tenure.

“I think Greg has done a great job for the city in many aspects,” Coburn said, without offering any details to support his assertion. “I appreciate his efforts.”

Buckley, on the other hand, was quite candid about his decision to tender his resignation, which was effective immediately. He said discussions with city councilors and the evaluation process revealed he may “not be the best fit any more.”

“With the leadership of council and their direction and what I can bring with my skill sets, they felt that may not be the best fit,” Buckley said after Tuesday’s special meeting. “I felt it was best that if we don’t see eye-to-eye on the fit for the future then let the community move forward on finding who they feel will best move the community in the direction council wants to go.”

Buckley, who formerly was an assistant city manager in Lawton, was hired in January 2008 and succeeded Walt Beckham the following month. He negotiated a five-year contract with a starting annual salary of $110,000 plus a variety of benefits — a deal that at the time made him the seventh-highest paid city manager in the state.

Wren Stratton, who was the mayor when Buckley was hired, said all of her dealings with him “have been positive.” She said city manager “is a very difficult job.”

Buckley said he enjoyed his tenure as the city manager and believed he has “had a positive working relationship with the city.” Buckley said that under his leadership he believes much has been accomplished with regard to the advancement and quality of the services provided to residents and “moving the city toward the future.”

“I am proud of representing the city in a positive and professional manner, both regionally and at the state (level), and I think the city has been recognized for that,” Buckley said. “We were able to maintain fiscal soundness during the economic downturn to make sure there were no employee furloughs or layoffs, and employees didn’t have to worry about not getting a regular paycheck.”

Other accomplishments cited by Buckley included the urban renewal initiative, updating policies that had not been reviewed for more than two decades, and the refinancing of debt that reduced the city’s cost of retiring those notes. Some things Buckley would like to have accomplished included seeing the fruit of efforts made to spur retail development.

“To really see the retail development initiatives take root — to see dirt moved and to see those dominoes start to fall,” he said about some of the things he had hoped to nurture to fruition. “Once we get a couple of those projects moving, it is just going to explode for Muskogee.”

Buckley, who has a granddaughter in the area, said he hopes to find work in the Tulsa metropolitan region. He said there are a “lot of opportunities and options out there.”

Buckley’s contract provides for a six-month severance package, which councilors are expected to consider next week along with the appointment of an interim successor.

Pursuant to the city’s succession plans, Planning Director Gary Garvin will serve as acting city manager until an interim manager is appointed. There was no word Tuesday about how city councilors will go about selecting a new city manager. Councilors took about four months to find and hire Buckley.

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

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