PRYOR, OK —
The ballots are made and the election date has been set, but one man running for Pryor City Council may lose his job if he wins the election.
Willard Buchanan Jr. is running for the city council seat in Ward 1.
“Three weeks ago, the mayor told me I can't run for council because I work for the city,” said Buchanan.
Buchanan is employed by Pryor’s Municipal Utility Board and has worked there for 19 years.
“I don't technically work for the city of Pryor, I work for MUB. They are separate entities and each have their own board,” said Buchanan, who added that the two entities are somewhat connected by a charter drafted in 1951.
“I told the mayor I was already on the ballot and the election is set. And that I really want to represent my ward on the city council,” Buchanan said. “But because of an article he ran in another newspaper, people think I can't run.”
Buchanan said he told Tramel if he works for the city he wants the golf course membership and the $50 gift card given to city employees.
“He told me no, no, no, that's not how it works. I told him either I am a city employee or I'm not, it can't be both ways,” said Buchanan.
Buchanan said the struggle is new to him.
He ran for city council two years ago against Roger Willcutt. He said he did not win the election, but that nobody opposed his running.
“I asked Jimmy why it's a problem now and he said it's because no one mentioned it last time. I understand Mr. Sharp expressed concern about it this time and the city attorney was asked to investigate it,” said Buchanan.
“My conclusion is that an employee of MUB may not also serve on the city council,” said city attorney Kim Ritchie. “In my opinion, a person employed by MUB also serving on the council would be in violation of Oklahoma Statute Title 51 Section 6, which prohibits dual office holding.”
Ritchie then cited several sections of the charter agreement between the city and MUB that he felt were applicable to the situation.
“According to the findings from the attorney, he can run but he cannot hold office and his city job. So if he were to be elected, he would have to be willing to leave his job,” said Tramel. “Willard is willing to step out and do what's right for the community. He is passionate about the town. I can honestly say we need more Willard Buchanan's in this town.”
The city, however, is firm in its opinion that no individual can hold dual offices as it would be a conflict of interest. The same situation applies to police officers, firefighters and city clerks who could not hold a council position.
City council elections are Feb. 11.