Embattled Wetumka mayor quits after fiery council meeting
By Ken Childers
A special meeting of the Wetumka City Council last week began with accusations of stalking and culminated with the resignation of embattled mayor James Jackson and two council members.
As reported by NonDoc and reprinted in the Jan. 23 edition of the Okemah News Leader, the council voted in an emergency meeting held Jan. 14 to fire City Manager Donnie Jett and to force him and Jackson to turn in their keys to city hall. Police Chief Joe Cooper announced at that meeting that Jett and Jackson were under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Last Wednesday, Jackson called a special council meeting for 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 31. The agenda included a proposed executive session to discuss abolishing the police department and moving its funds to the sanitation department for a “critically needed multi-million dollar, 40-year sewer lagoon loan.”
The meeting got underway with a fiery exchange between councilor Norma Marshall and Jackson, in which she accused the mayor of stalking her.
“I have a question that I want to address,” Marshall said. “James Jackson, why did you follow me home the other night…on my bumper at a high rate of speed?”
Jackson denied the accusation. “I’ve never followed you home,” he replied.
“Yes you did. It was you,” Marshall continued. “What were you doing following me home? Are you stalking me? You’d better not! I’m looking you in the eye…you better not stalk me, and you’d better not sic any of your goonies on me! I’m not taking it, James, you hear me? Don’t you do it anymore…not to anybody I know, not to any community members.”
Jackson then made a motion to convene into executive session, but City Attorney John Baca advised against doing so. “Because the agenda has so many different positions regarding employment at this time, I recommend not going into executive session,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd.
Despite Baca’s advice, councilor Rebecca Jackson, who is also the now former mayor’s wife, made a motion to go into executive session, which was seconded by her husband. The council voted 3-2 for the executive session, which lasted about 45 minutes.
When the council returned to open session, it was announced that all agenda items were being tabled and the Jacksons would resign, but with one caveat – councilman Randy Hinkley had to go as well. “The only way I’ll put my name on the document to resign is if Randy does it first,” Rebecca Jackson said. Hinkley stated he was willing to resign if that meant the Jacksons would follow suit.
“It’s going to be a fight every stinking month about the same agenda…getting rid of the police department and everything else.This town doesn’t want Rebecca and James here. They said that the only way they’ll step down and get out of here is if I go, too. If that’s what ya’ll want, I’m out of here,” Hinkley told the crowd, which included several dozen people.
James Jackson told the spectators that since three people were resigning, a special election would be necessary, and its $6,000 price tag was a “cheap price to pay” for getting rid of him and his wife.
“Let me address this real quick. The people that put us here thought they were doing a free, fair election or whatever. Here’s the deal. If one or two of them leave, there’s always going to be political maneuvering to see who gets in there. That’s not fair to everybody…it depends on who’s the best maneuverer,” he stated. “If three of us walk off from here today, you will be spun into an election. That way everybody in this town gets a chance for a free and fair election again, and they can put whoever they want back up here.”
After the meeting was adjourned, there was some speculation among attendees as to whether or not the resignations would actually take place, due to a recent experience. Following the Jan. 14 meeting, Jackson messaged town leaders that he was resigning as mayor and chairman of the Wetumka Public Works Authority while retaining his council seat. But days later, word spread that the former U.S. Army intelligence officer had reversed course and was telling people he had not resigned as mayor.
All three resignations ultimately became official, as James and Rebecca Jackson filed a letter of resignation at the Hughes County Courthouse, which was stamped at 1:28 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31. Hinkley submitted his own letter of resignation at 12:02 p.m., which was also filed with the county clerk.