Proposed McAlester City Charter changes on the ballot Tuesday would give the city council the power to confirm the appointment of the city attorney, and detail the attorney’s duties.

Charter Review Committee member Dorothy Crone said the changes were initiated by a controversial statement from former McAlester City Attorney Wes Brown.

“That came about because the former city attorney made a statement that he worked for the city manager,” Crone said. “That isn’t where a city attorney’s responsibility ends.”

The city attorney is only briefly mentioned in the current charter.

Section 3.3 of the current charter states there is to be “a department of law headed by a city attorney.”

Under the current charter, the city manager has the power to “supervise and control, directly or indirectly, all administrative departments, agencies, officers and employees.”

This includes the city attorney and the department of law.

As of now, the city manager is also solely responsible for the appointment or removal of the city attorney.

The current charter allows the city manager to “appoint, lay off, suspend, demote or remove all directors or heads of administrative departments...”

The city attorney is one of these department heads.

Proposition No. 1 will continue to give the council power to appoint and remove the city manager, as well as “confirm the city attorney’s appointment by the city manager, and to remove the city attorney.”

The current charter only gives the council power to appoint and remove the city manager.

Proposition No. 4 will make the city attorney’s chief responsibility to serve the council, not the city manager. It also gives the council the power to remove the attorney.

The proposition states “the city attorney serves at the pleasure of the city council, and may be removed by a majority of all council members.”

Crone feels the changes are necessary.

“If there is something inappropriate done to cause the removal of the city attorney, it should be reviewed by the council and they should have the power to remove the attorney,” Crone said.

Crone said the city attorney’s duties lie with more than just the city manager.

“His services have been paid for with taxpayer’s money,” Crone said. “We wanted to see to it that legal counsel is available to the city council and department heads.”

Acting City Attorney Bob Ivester also supports the charter changes.

“I believe the city attorney should be responsible to the city council and mayor,” Ivester said. “Therefore they should have final approval of his hiring and dismissal.”

Ivester felt the changes were overdue.

“The question’s risen whether the city attorney represents the city manager or the city,” Ivester said. “I think it needed to be spelled out specifically that he does represent the city.”



Contact Trevor Dunbar at tdunbar@mcalesternews.com.