Voters in Pawhuska will decide Tuesday whether four City Council members will be removed from office in the wake of the firing and rehiring of the city’s police chief.
Councilors John Brazee (Ward 4), Mark Buchanan (Ward 3), Rodger Milleson (at large) and Roger Taylor (Ward 1) are on four separate proposals on Tuesday’s ballot to be recalled from office.
Supporters of the recall efforts submitted more than 108 valid signatures in a petition effort — one quarter of the number of voters in the city’s most-recent general election, the Pawhuska Journal-Capital reported.
The effort began after Police Chief Nick Silva was fired by two city officials who later resigned.
Then-City Manager Larry Eulert and then-Assistant City Manager Rex Wikel met with Silva in late June, the World reported previously.
Silva said they told him they didn’t like the Police Department’s direction since Silva took over as chief in April after Wikel’s promotion to assistant city manager from police chief. Silva was then fired.
Specific reasons weren’t provided, Silva said. But he said he did let go of two officers who had served under Wikel.
The Tulsa World at the time reached Wikel by phone, and he declined to discuss his reason for resigning or say why Silva was fired.
Silva was reinstated five days later by Tonya Bright, an administrative assistant who was approved as interim city manager by the Pawhuska City Council.
The council met behind closed doors for 40 minutes in July to discuss the vacant city manager’s position before appointing Bright to the position in a 5-0 vote. She then met with Silva.
After the council’s vote, City Attorney John Heskett said there was no termination letter or discipline regarding Silva.
Several people attended the special council meeting in support of reinstating Silva. Tjuana Boulanger carried a petition being circulated to recall each council member.
“Once Nick (Silva) came on, we finally felt peace. We felt protected because we never was before,” Boulanger said. “All these people do what they want.”
Mayor Roger Taylor said he was caught off guard by Silva’s firing. Taylor described the City Council as an advisory-type board, given no one is paid for the work. He said the city manager is employed to run the government.
Taylor asked for a chance to “make the best of a bad situation” and said the City Council is trying its best to make it right.
“Maybe we should have been a little more reactive with it. It wasn’t us who fired him, and it wasn’t us that told the man to fire him. He did it on his own,” Taylor said.
“Now I’m not throwing Mr. Eulert under the bus — he’s a good guy — but the situation, … maybe we didn’t handle it quite right. I don’t know; I wasn’t there.”