Owasso councilor seeks ouster of city manager
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
9/18/12 at 6:35 AM
OWASSO - Longtime City Manager Rodney Ray responded to one city councilor's calling for his ouster by touting the city's "enviable position" as a destination center and progressive community.
"So far, his basic philosophy is to say 'no,' " Ray said of Patrick Ross, who took his council seat in April 2011. " 'No' is not a strategy. It's a way to perhaps make headlines and perhaps appeal to a small group of people."
Saying Owasso needs a new look that "must start with a new city manager," Ross has asked the council not to renew Ray's contract at a council meeting Tuesday night.
"In a nutshell, the City of Owasso needs a new look and that must start with new leadership," Ross wrote recently in his blog, titled "Owasso Matters."
"I firmly believe we must start with a new City Manager and go from there."
In the blog, Ross asks his readers to tell their city councilors to deny Ray's two-year contract, which expires Nov. 30, requesting an executive session to discuss Ray's pact. A nonrenewal requires 60 days' notice, which would be Oct. 1.
Ray, 65, spent 11 years as Owasso's city manager before serving three years as the town coordinator for Skiatook. He was rehired by Owasso in the same capacity on Jan. 1, 2002.
As reasons for Ray's ouster, Ross cites, among other things, the city's "record debt," a 76th Street North sewer line that he said was "widely opposed" by residents, and a number of lawsuits facing the city.
The councilor also wrote that the Police Department "is in a shambles, with an aging fleet of patrol cars, low morale, low pay and a litigation history that does not reflect favorably on our city or" Police Department."
Ray said Monday that he was blindsided by Ross' remarks, saying Ross never has "indicated his displeasure with anything specific."
He touted the city's financial and institutional stability, saying it has one of the strongest reserves in the state.
Brian Vance, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, said Owasso's average debt coverage ratio over the past 10 years is 2.45 times, well over the board's minimum requirement of 1.25.
"We are one of the most financially stable cities in the state of Oklahoma," Ray said. "When other people are laying people off, we kept people's jobs. When other people were furloughing, we kept people's jobs. When other people were cutting back on budgets, we had a reserve."
Owasso's population was 28,915 in 2010, an increase of 56.3 percent over the previous decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"When you begin to say all government is bad, no matter who it is or what it is, then I think you become complicit in those efforts to make everyone suffer simply because government is government," Ray said.
"This is just another one of those things that he's using to drive that wedge between the people of Owasso and their government. I think that is foundationally and fundamentally wrong."
The city has been the subject of recent litigation, particularly its Police Department. The city was sued Aug. 31 in federal court in Tulsa by a Collinsville man who claims that excessive force was used against him by police during an arrest.
Bryan Scott Spradlin alleges that he was a victim of police brutality - including being repeatedly elbowed in the face - during his June 30, 2011, arrest on a public intoxication complaint.
The city subsequently released police videos in which Lt. Mike Denton can be seen stepping on Spradlin's head, stretching his handcuffed arms and appearing to elbow his face.
Denton was fired in November because his actions violated the Police Department's policy on use of force, according to the city.
But arbitrator Edward Valverde amended the discipline from firing to a written reprimand and ordered the city to reinstate Denton with back pay and benefits.
Instead of allowing Denton to rejoin the force, the city filed a lawsuit July 16 in Tulsa County District Court challenging the reinstatement order.
Original Print Headline: Owasso councilor calls for ouster of city manager
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
City Manager Rodney Ray (left) and City Councilor Patrick Ross: Ray said, "We are one of the most financially stable cities in the state," in response to Ross' lamenting the city's "record debt."