Unscheduled discussion about possible layoffs of city employees apparently prompted officials to ask four staff members to leave a special Tahlequah City Council meeting last week.

Tahlequah city employees Edward Carr and Danya Curtis filed a complaint with the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, saying the Oklahoma Meeting Act had been violated during the meeting. The report alleges officials had begun talking about matters not listed on the agenda.

The meeting was called with the express purpose of negotiating with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 201. However, discussion veered off onto the topic of the city budget and possible "forced layoffs," and at that point, the four employees were asked to leave.

“We mainly talked about the budget and the effect the FOP union negotiations would have on the budget,” said City Administrator Carr.

When the conversation moved to forced lay-offs, Mayor Sue Catron told the councilors they should ask employees if they want to "self-terminate," according to the report. Councilors evidently concluded the jobs of police union employees were "safe."

“Nothing pertaining to the budget or layoffs was posted on the agenda, yet both were discussed,” said City Finance Director Danya Curtis.

The special meeting began at 9:06 a.m. and went directly into executive session. At 11:40 a.m., according to the report, Catron asked Carr, Curtis, DeAnna Hammons and M’Lynn Pape to leave the room.

The mayor, City Attorney Grant Lloyd, and City Councilors Stephen Highers, Trae Ratliff, Bree Long and Dower Combs were present during the executive session.

The report said Catron made the statement that “if we settle the FOP contract, we cannot meet to discuss the budget as a group anymore.”

District Attorney Jack Thorp received the CCSO report Tuesday afternoon and confirmed he has reviewed it.

“I haven’t made any decision at this time, as I still have several questions. I would say at this time the matter is still under investigation,” Thorp said.

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