Anadarko city manager latest to resign amid political squabbling

Wednesday, November 10th 2004, 12:29 pm
By: News On 6

ANADARKO, Okla. (AP) _ The city manager is the latest to resign amid a political squabble over this southwest Oklahoma city's finances and future direction.

City manager Roy Rainey submitted his letter of resignation to a short-handed City Council Monday night, a little more than eight months after taking the position.

In recent months, Mayor Beverly Willhoite, City Treasurer Robert Brooks and council members Katy Dawes and Greg Dakil have resigned. Council members Kym Pendarvis and John Thompson have been recalled, and Vice Mayor Mo Kelley and Councilman James Hamilton are fighting recall petitions.

Rainey, who previously served as city manager of Cordell, said the city's financial outlook was bleak when he took the job.

The city was behind in its payments to Anadarko's wholesale electric provider and facing a Department of Environmental Quality order to make $3.5 million in improvements to its waste water facility, he said.

But Rainey said the city's finances are back on track with the passage of a citywide utility rate increase last month.

``It was almost impossible to know where the finances were when I started, but it was obvious they were in pretty severe circumstances,'' Rainey said. ``Now our fiscal problems are solved, yet we have the legacy of this political crisis.''

But Melissa Abbott, a former city council member who helped form a citizens group that launched the recall petitions, said Rainey exacerbated the city's financial problems by not disclosing the situation to the public.

Abbott said most members of the Concerned Citizens Group realize some type of utility rate hike was needed. She said the group's biggest concern is that city officials were not open with the public about city finances.

``It wasn't about the rate increase,'' Abbott explained. ``What we wanted was accountability and openness from city officials.

``And when we went to the council meeting as a group and asked the council to show us a complete and factual accounting of city funds ... we were told to sit down and shut up because that's none of our business.''

Abbott and the citizens' group also contend that the utility rate hike was not legally approved by the council and that they plan to file a class-action lawsuit to overturn it.

``They just used bully tactics to force it through and hoped people won't question the issue,'' she said.

Rainey said he plans to stay in his current position until Dec. 31 to help with next year's budget. After that, he's not sure what the future holds.

``I don't know at this point,'' Rainey said. ``I retired twice already, but I never got good at that.''