By Josh Allen
ONL Staff Reporter
After the “spontaneous” firing of City Manager Bert Robison at a council meeting last month, the almost two-year employee gathered his things from City Hall and made his way out the door.
A formal or official reason for the seemingly random firing of the top administrative position in the city was not given. Up until the point the councilors cast their votes to terminate him, Robison seemed to be doing the job well enough.
Notwithstanding, it was said at the meeting — given as a kind of informal reason — that “some things came to light” that resulted in his termination.
Those “things” now in the “light” were not detailed or specified. Whatever was revealed to the council — evidentially, at least — seems to have happened in recent weeks.
That’s because his contract had just recently been renewed, extending his time with the city. At that time the renewal also included a pay increase.
According to Robison’s — possibly breeched — contract, the termination made eligible to Robison a severance pay package, which councilors sat down to discuss last Thursday.
Legally, it was specified that if Robison should be terminated — with or without reason — prior to the conclusion of the term set out in the recently renewed contract, the City of Okemah would owe the once city manager his regular salary for the next three months, plus one month’s pay per year of service.
He had given 21 months of service to the City of Okemah — not quite two years. With three months of severance pay guaranteed, councilors discussed whether Robison’s 21 months should be “rounded up” to two years, making for five months pay (the set three months, plus one month per those two years) or “rounded down” to one year, making for four months severance pay.
The councilors made it an easy decision. Recognizing Robison worked just three months shy of a second full year, they approved the five month package.
Robison’s full-coverage employee insurance, per the contract, would have to stay in place also — one month per year of service. As with the aforementioned decision concerning his 21 months, councilors decided on two months insurance.
The severance package, whether to pay it or not, was not a council voting matter; the signed contract put it in an obligatory basket.
Councilors could only dictate and vote to approve the method or process by which Robison would receive the pay.
Discussion boiled it down to paying the severance pack all at once or letting him collect a check each pay period until paid in full.
Councilors approved the latter method, equating to just under $2,800 per bi-weekly pay period for the five month period, plus the two months of insurance.
Over the duration fo the five months of pay owed to Robison from the City, councilors decided to continue paying him bi-weekly checks until the five months have been covered, completely covering the contractual obligation to Robison.
The total severance package voted on for Robison will total just under $24,500 before ties are severed with Robison, and
The City of Okemah now moves on with new staff — appointing Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Dustin Danker at a special meeting called shortly after his removal.
Danker will serve in the interim position while a permanent replacement is sought.
The council agreed to a $5,000 per year raise for Danker for taking on the extra responsibility.
Robison was hired in January 2017. Since that point, Robison had accomplished things, according to city staff.
As interim, it has not been specified how long Danker will hold the position, but applications are currently being sought for a permanent replacement.
During the hearing to decide on the severance package all the councilors could agree on, no insight into the spontaneous firing of Robison was disclosed; only that the council needed to move on and find someone else to take the position.
Mayor Mike Fuller wanted Jim Bill Copeland — the last interim manager before Robison’s hiring in 2017 — to take the reigns again.
His fellow councilors did not apparently agree. Fuller’s motion died quickly due to lack of a second before the council eventually agreed on and approved the appointment and pay increase for Danker.