Two Tahlequah city officials have been placed on administrative leave, one for contract review and the other pending an investigation.
Administrator Edward Carr is on paid administrative leave until the City Council reviews his employment contract, which includes an annual salary of $117,000 plus benefits. City Finance Director Danya Curtis, whose salary is $63,718 plus benefits, is on paid leave while an investigation into the city's finances is conducted.
Mayor Sue Catron said concerns about financial records were brought to her attention, and the probe will begin as soon as possible. She said she could not give specific details regarding Carr's contract or what concerns were brought to her attention.
"Pending further review into our financial records, our finance director will be on leave until questions can be investigated," Catron said Wednesday morning. "We would not be taking action of this manner if we didn't have some concerns, but the point of this is to answer any concerns that have been brought to my knowledge and move forward."
Catron met with Finance Department staff and other department directors later Wednesday.
"My top priority today is to have staff conversations and alleviate concerns they may have," she said. "We have great employees here at the city and we'll continue to provide and improve our services."
According to the Tahlequah City Charter, the mayor has the authority to dismiss an employee with the approval of the City Council. Catron said this was not a termination, so she did not have to have council approval for her decision.
"In the charter, it also says that I'm the chief administrative officer, so that gives me the authorization to make moves like this," she said.
The mayor said she notified the councilors immediately and that she did consult with legal counsel before proceeding.
As for an investigation into the city's finances, the mayor would like to proceed as quickly as possible.
"The Council will determine who is in charge of the investigation. I'll probably be going forward Monday night's agenda with some options as to which direction we want to go, whether that's hiring an outside party or doing this internally," said Catron.
Catron said she would normally have Carr's contract review on the Monday City Council agenda. However, Ward 3 Councilor Stephen Highers will be absent from that meeting.
"I prefer all four councilors to be available for that discussion, so we can either have an additional emergency meeting or the councilors may want to hold it until our September regular meeting," said Catron. "I think they would prefer to do it a little earlier if possible."
She acknowledged that a change of this magnitude does impact city employees, but added she has a lot of confidence in the staff. Catron said she couldn't discuss specific issues with the city finances at this time.
Calls and messages to City Attorney Grant T. Lloyd were not returned by press time.