A June 7 special Tahlequah City Council meeting to discuss the 2019-2020 contract with the police department's union culminated in two employees filing a complaint over a possible violation of the state's Open Meeting Act.
The meeting was called with the express purpose of negotiating with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 201, but sources told the Daily Press the discussion veered off onto the topic of the city budget, with four employees being asked to leave the meeting.
A report taken by Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault suggested the act had been violated, as the topic had not been part of the agenda. Chennault confirmed the matter will be discussed with District Attorney Jack Thorp on Monday.
Tahlequah City Mayor Sue Catron said the meeting was intended to ensure that a good offer was made to the FOP, and that everything that occurred was done "in good faith."
The FOP is a fraternal organization for sworn law enforcement officers, and its representatives meet annually with the City Council. The special meeting was to discuss and possible action to approve the fiscal year contract.
“That is in relation to the upcoming budget, and they are trying to finalize what the city can offer those officers who are members of that union," Catron said.
The mayor said they did come to a decision on a counter offer for the FOP.
“We’re all in an agreement that what we’ve agreed to, is to offer is a good solid – something we can support," she said.
However, Ward 3 Councilor Stephen Highers said there was no motion, and the council did not agree on a contract.
A motion to exit the special meeting and enter into an executive session was on the meeting agenda. The session was to include the councilors, the mayor and city attorney. This is why the other four employees were asked to leave.
Jami Murphy, public relations specialist for the city, confirmed that a report was filed with the sheriff’s office. She declined to comment further due to a potential investigation into the complaint by the DA’s office.
City Attorney Grant Lloyd said he was not aware of any violation of the Open Meeting Act.
“It’s disheartening that a city employee would make an accusation. I am not aware nor have any facts presented to me to substantiate this,” said Lloyd.
Two people, one claiming to be a current city employee, called the Press Friday afternoon to report "a possible violation of the Oklahoma Statute Title 25," which relates to how meetings are conducted.