Local leaders of NAACP condemned the actions of an assistant city administrator who sent three suspicious envelopes by certified mail to the fiancee of a Muskogee city councilor.
The Rev. Rodger Cutler, Muskogee Branch president, described the act as "extremely inappropriate" even if Assistant Planning Director Dan Hurd broke no laws. Hurd said he mailed the envelopes in an attempt to prove Councilor Ivory Vann lived outside Ward III.
Hurd — on April Fool's Day — deposited three empty envelopes with the U.S. Postal Service for delivery by certified mail to Vann, the intended recipient, but addressed them to the home of his fiancee. Observers say the tactic is one that was used to intimidate minorities during civil rights movements, and they believe Vann — an outspoken critic of what he considers waste and abuse — was being targeted because he would be unqualified to serve as city councilor if he did not reside within the ward.
Cutler questioned Hurd's motive for his conduct and potential consequences of allowing it to go unchecked without discipline. He raised the specter of "citizens or other elected officials" becoming "targets if they disagree or agree to disagree" about topics of public interest.
"While we cannot find evidence of racial bias, we believe, as do many others, that Mr. Hurd’s actions toward an elected official were inappropriate given his capacity as a management official employed by the City of Muskogee," Cutler said on behalf of the Muskogee Branch. "We request the city manager to take the necessary steps to guarantee that this behavior does not become the standard and not allow its precedent to encourage others to conduct themselves inappropriately."
Miller said he does "not condone Hurd's action, and while "much has been said and implied about the situation ..., all personnel matters, including complaints against city staff by Council members, are taken seriously." He said the incident "remains under investigation," and "appropriate action" will be taken "based upon the facts as they come to light."
"The city strives to maintain professionalism of its staff, and when conduct or behaviors detract from that, remedial action is warranted," Miller said, noting the limitations on what he can discuss regarding personnel matters. As "I have said to Councilman Vann, city employee Dan Hurd, other city councilors individually: I do not condone the actions of Mr. Hurd in this situation — his actions don’t represent city employees nor are they representative of who we are."
Miller said he discussed the issue this past week with Cutler and how "to move forward together."
Vann said he is "kind of satisfied but again not satisfied" with the official response to his complaint. He expects "more as evidence presents itself" during the ongoing investigation.
"The main thing I want is for them to do the right thing," Vann said. "The one good thing that has happened is you will see extra security at the entrance there to City Hall during our meetings — I have been pushing for that but they ignored me before."