Late Monday, we learned that an arrest warrant had been issued for Pawhuska City Manager Paul McAlexander in connection with the earlier bungled arrest of City Attorney Jess J. Worten III for an alleged DUI-related vehicle accident.
McAlexander, who was apparently out of state on vacation when the warrant was issued, will be charged with misdemeanor obstruction of a public officer in connection to the July 3 incident.
His crime? The city manager allegedly discouraged police officers from arresting Worten for drunken driving. The charge comes after an investigation into the incident conducted by Special Agent Marty Wilson with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. An OSBI spokesperson said the office was asked to investigate the matter by Osage County District Attorney Rex Duncan.
So, did the city manager interfere? If you have had a chance to view the video of the scene (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIf__3A_4tA&feature=youtu.be#sthash.PFkT...) McAlexander clearly instructs the would-be arresting officers to take Worten to the city jail where he could sober up and then be picked up by his wife.
Police Chief Scott Laird was on vacation at the time of the incident and, reportedly, was not available to immediately return the phone calls from his officers. Without direction from their immediate superior, officers then reached out to McAlexander. This seems to be an important point. Instead of following normal arrest protocol, officers sought out the city manager to advise them. Not too surprisingly, McAlexander told them what he thought.
Was it sound legal advise? Absolutely not. The city manager is neither a law enforcement officer, nor an attorney.
Was it boneheaded? Yes. It’s another example of the proverbial good ol’ boy network in action.
Was it criminal? We think not.
Many questions still remain. Did McAlexander threaten or intimidate officers into not arresting Worten? The video in question does not appear to support that. Did officers clearly state their disagreement with the city manager? The video evidence suggests they were not happy about it, but there seemed to be no real disagreement or challenge to McAlexander. He is ultimately their boss, after all.
Why did the would-be arresting officers feel the need to contact their superiors in the first place? They are trained law enforcement officers and have probably arrested dozens, if not hundreds, of people on suspicion of drunk driving. Why did Worten get special treatment? Why didn’t they go ahead and perform a standard sobriety test? Why didn’t they just handle Worten like they would any other citizen in similar circumstances?
It’s an embarrasment for sure, and it appears McAlexander will be made the scapegoat for all that went wrong that day.
We believe Paul McAlexander is a good and decent man, but he made a boneheaded mistake and certainly deserved a harsher penalty than a slap-on-the-wrist two-week suspension. But a criminal charge? Really?
This smacks of politics and will only further darken the black eye that Pawhuska already has.