An announcement that Paul McAlexander is retiring concluded a month-long series of closed-door sessions at which Pawhuska City Council members considered taking disciplinary action against the beleaguered and longtime city manager.
The council, by a 4-0 vote on Thursday, acknowledged the retirement of McAlexander and authorized paying him severance compensation amounting to three months of his salary.
Following another executive session, the council then proceeded to hire Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Director Michael McCartney to fill the city manager position — at least on an interim basis. McCartney, who attends a majority of the council’s meetings, already serves as the city’s economic development director.
Mayor Roger Taylor said a search for a new city manager might be conducted after about 90 days.
McAlexander, who had served as city manager for the past 10 years, was not present for the meeting. Earlier in the day, however, he was in Osage County District Court for an appearance on a misdemeanor charge: obstruction of a public officer.
The charge was filed against McAlexander last week in connection with his actions following an alleged drunken-driving accident involving the Pawhuska city attorney, Jesse Worten III. Police video shows the 64-year-old city manager telling local police how he wanted them to handle the arrest of Worten.
Shortly after the July 3 incident, the video (which was taken with an officer’s uniform camera) received wide circulation via social media. In response to public outcry, council members voted late last month to formally reprimand McAlexander and ordered him to serve an unpaid, two-week suspension.
The council met in executive session three times in just over a month to discuss McAlexander.
McAlexander pleaded not guilty to the charge during his appearance before Rogers County Special Judge Terrell S. Crosson, who was assigned to handle the case following recusals by the judges in Pawhuska.
City attorney Worten, who was eventually named in a municipal charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, is reportedly on a two-month medical leave of absence. His wife, Cathy Worten, was a city council member at the time of the incident — but she has since resigned and did not participate in any of the recent meetings involving McAlexander.
McAlexander became Pawhuska city manager in 2004 following the death of his predecessor, William “Blackie” Ricketts.
He remains free on a $1,000 bond and is not due back in court until Oct. 30. McAlexander was accompanied by two attorneys — Bransford Shoemake and Rod Ramsey.