Most of the action at the Luther Town Board and Luther Public Works Authority Special meetings December 16, 2015, was behind closed doors. The board, with its new attorney, Bryan Drummond, entered into three executive sessions.
Before going into those private sessions on personnel matters, the new attorney gave an opinion on the matter of the town mayor. It was back in October when Trustee Lea Ann Jackson moved to strip Mayor Birlene Langley from her mayoral title. That action was taken up during the “new business” part of what had been a contentious meeting with one town board member alleging racism, and another saying he was afraid for his personal safety.
Drummond’s first public act as town attorney was to state his legal opinion on the mayoral issue comparing it to an “at-wlll” employee that serves at the pleasure of elected officials. He said there are no other cases or attorney general opinions on the matter, and based his opinion on state law.
“It is my legal opinion that the Board of Trustees can vote to remove its mayor at any time and then appoint another one to fill the remainder of the unexpired term, which in this case, is sometime in 2017,” said Drummond.
Promptly, the trustees voted unanimously on a motion naming Lea Ann Jackson as mayor.
“I was surprised and am very glad. More than anything, I want us to work together. I think we are all starting to look at things that are best for the town, not a particular faction, but the town as a whole,” said Mayor Jackson. The Luther mayor is not a paid position, but the mayor helps set the agenda, and runs the meetings.
In her day job, Jackson is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the Oklahoma Bankers Association. She is a certified public accountant and a certified association executive, as well as a licensed insurance agent. She served on the Governor’s Task Force for Recovery after the May 3, 1999, tornado and was a finalist for The Journal Record Woman of the Year in 1999, according to the OBA website.
Back to executive sessions, the first session was “to discuss the employment, performance and possible disciplining, including but not limited to possible termination/dismissal of Laura McCuddy, Town Clerk/Treasuer and Marcus Thurman, Police Chief.”
Neither was fired. Back in public session, the trustees voted to put a disciplinary document in each employee’s file. No one will talk on record about the issue, but Mayor Jackson expressed confidence in both McCuddy and Thurman.
“I am absolutely confident in our public safety. It’s not about his conduct as a police officer, it’s more of an administrative nature,” said Jackson. She also said McCuddy, in the job since May, is doing a good job and is participating in training for her role.
Convened later as the LPWA, the board met in executive session one more time and returned to vote for the immediate firing of Michael Jackson who worked in the town’s maintenance department. Both Langley and Ron Henry abstained from that vote.
Mayor Jackson is already looking forward to the January meeting and some strategic planning in 2016.
“I like the idea of us brainstorming together to come up with the top issues. If it means we hire someone to write a grant to help us get a new water tower, at least we’re all agreed and moving in the same direction, and not in crisis management,” she said.