MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

August 3, 2013

Resignation demands answers

Very few people know exactly why Greg Buckley is no longer the city manager of Muskogee.

That number does not include the constituents of the Muskogee City Council.

And that’s just wrong.

The announcement of Buckley’s resignation came shortly after nine city councilors left an executive session Tuesday.

Those councilors neither discussed the resignation nor answered questions following that session.

It might be classier not to discuss this breakup in public.

But there are about 136,000 reasons why Muskogee taxpayers deserve some answers.  

That’s the dollar amount of the severance package Buckley appears to be able to receive with just his signature on a letter of resignation.

Voters elected this Council to make these kinds of decisions. That’s true. But taxpayers deserve some transparency when decisions cost the city $136,000.

Did Buckley do something illegal, immoral or unethical? Or was his departure the result of a personality conflict between him and the councilors?

Was what happened one of those two extremes, or did it fall somewhere legitimately in the middle?

Councilors are shielded from having to answer taxpayers’ questions by protection provided by the executive session.

The state Open Meetings, Open Records Act makes it illegal for councilors to share what happens in executive session.

The truth is being cloaked by the very legislation designed to reveal truth.

The protection provided by executive session cuts both ways.

Councilors do not have to explain what happened.

But that also leaves them no way to defend what happened behind closed doors.

This is not a defense of Buckley. Nor is it an indictment of the councilors’ actions during the evaluation process.

That’s the point. Taxpayers do not have the information they need to make an informed decision.

It is government’s responsibility to provide that information.

The city can’t reveal what happened in executive session. But the city might be able to make public any paper document that led to Buckley’s resignation, including his evaluation.

The situation may be considered a personnel issue between employers and employee. But don’t forget councilors are employees of the taxpayers of Muskogee, too.

And Buckley is not your average city employee. He was appointed to his job by elected public officials.

And it appears he left his job after an evaluation of his performance was conducted by elected public officials behind closed doors.

Five of the nine council seats come up for election in January. Changing the city’s top appointed executive should be a campaign issue.

Taxpayers deserve the right to decide for themselves whether the councilors did the right thing.

Councilors started an evaluation process on the city manager. Buckley no longer has that job.

Now it’s time for voters to do an evaluation on their councilors.

Councilors must find a way to answer citizens’ questions about the evaluation process of our city manager.

Or councilors are left to trust voters’ evaluation of them come January.

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