Council fires BA's city manager
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Saturday, April 21, 2012
4/21/12 at 7:52 AM
BROKEN ARROW - The Broken Arrow City Council unanimously voted to fire City Manager David Wooden on Friday evening, even while praising his 22 years of service to the city.
The firing follows months of criticism from a neighborhood group that has been upset over the city's handling of an Indian casino that is being built in southwest Broken Arrow.
Wooden will receive six months' severance pay, which amounts to $71,750 plus benefits.
According to his contract, although he is an "at will" employee, he is entitled to a severance if his termination is not considered for reasons of affirmative misconduct, malfeasance in office, conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude or inability to perform his duties.
The council appointed Human Resources Director Russell Gale as acting city manager. Gale has previously served in that capacity when Wooden was away.
Wooden was not present or available for comment, but he did release a statement:
"I have enjoyed my career with the city and appreciate all the employees that helped me during my time in Broken Arrow," his statement says.
His employment with the city also included stints as public works director, city engineer and assistant city manager.
Members of Broken Arrow Citizens Against Neighborhood Gaming have criticized Wooden and other city officials for not informing residents of the Kialegee Tribal Town's plans to build a casino when officials learned of the plans months before they became public.
City officials have said they weren't sure the casino would actually materialize.
Wooden has said previously that the casino issue has been misunderstood. He has stated publicly that he is opposed to the casino but didn't think the city had any legal standing to oppose it.
"As a result of that, they feel I'm responsible, and there's nothing I can do to change their opinion," he said.
The group's spokesman, Jared Cawley, said he thought Wooden's firing was unfortunate but the right decision.
"Based upon the time of service Mr. Wooden has provided the city, the six-month severance seems to be a fair agreement," he said.
Councilor Johnnie Parks said Wooden had served the city in a professional way and had saved the city a lot of money over the years.
"It's just time we now move on," he said.
Councilor Richard Carter said he had worked with Wooden for more than 19 years.
"He's done a tremendous job in so many areas. He deserves our thanks for that," Carter said.
Michael Barron, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church and a member of the city's Downtown Advisory Board, urged the council to allow Wooden to retire.
"I think a lifetime of dedication and service to the community should not end the way it is," Barron said.
In a statement released after the meeting, Mayor Mike Lester said Wooden had been an integral part of helping the city through the economic downturn.
"Much of what we have achieved during this time is a direct reflection of his leadership and direction," Lester said.
"However, there always comes a time when our needs, going into the future, require different skill sets and a need for change."
Vice Mayor Craig Thurmond said in a statement that Wooden had been a huge asset to the city.
"Dave took us through the toughest budget crisis in years and kept us afloat with no layoffs and no reduction in services," he said.
Before working for the city, Wooden served in the Army Corps of Engineers, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
Wooden is credited with spearheading major projects, including the recruitment of Bass Pro Shops to Broken Arrow, the Kenosha corridor flooding project, an events park, and the Aspen Avenue/Creek Turnpike interchange, which is set to open in May.
In other action: The council voted to approve a $15,000 agreement with Affion Public LLC to conduct a search for a new city manager.
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
David Wooden: "I have enjoyed my career with the city and appreciate all the employees that helped me during my time in Broken Arrow."