McAlester mayor resigns in wake of buyback policy

Wednesday, January 12th 2005, 5:35 am

By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) -- The mayor of this southeast Oklahoma city resigned Tuesday night in the wake of a controversial leave buyback policy that is under state and federal investigation.

Mayor Dale Covington told a packed meeting that he didn't need the hassles of public pressure stemming from the city's decision to pay City Manager Randy Green $579,500 for unused leave over a five-year period. Officials also paid division heads $360,822 for unused leave.

"The City Council didn't do anything wrong. No one did," Covington said of the city manager's contract. "When it all comes out, the FBI, it will be a different story."

Covington, 72, was mayor for 10 years. He plans to continue serving as chairman of the Board of Regents of Eastern Oklahoma State College at Wilburton.

City council member Greg Rock, who took office in September, was appointed the new mayor.

Rock, 26, was elected to the vice mayor's position after former Vice Mayor Charles Shorty Repass resigned due to ill health. Repass plans to continue to serve on the council.

A group of about 100 residents met Monday night to consider drafting petitions to recall Covington and four council members.

Green has said Covington signed and the council approved each of his contracts.

During the meeting, council member Dale Nave recommended changing the buyback system for division heads to the same program offered to other non-uniformed municipal employees.

Under that program, city employees could accumulate up to 45 days vacation time and 90 days sick time. After that, they either used their time or lost it.

City employees are allowed to sell back up to 45 days of vaction time and 30 days of sick leave if they stop working for the city.

Rock, however, recommended there be no buybacks for non-union employees.

The council approved Rock's proposal.

"If I retired tomorrow instead of a few months ago, I'd have gotten nothing," said Jeannie Little, who worked 30 years for the city water department. "That's what everyone's going to get now -- nothing.

Under the new policy, no non-uniformed employee will be able to sell unused vacation or sick time.

The policy doesn't affect police officers or firefighters, who have buyback policies negotiated through their unions.

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