Jim Hudgens was temporarily restrained from serving as Sallisaw’s mayor through an order by District Judge Jeff Payton on Monday.
The finding was in response to a petition filed by Sallisaw attorney Frank Sullivan III on behalf of his client, Clayton Lucas II. Lucas was fired from his post as Sallisaw city manager by a vote of three to two by the Sallisaw City Commission at their meeting on Nov. 3. But during the following week it was learned the commissioners did not follow the Sallisaw City Charter protocols when dismissing a city manager. A special meeting was called for 6 p.m. Nov. 20 (today) to complete the dismissal.
The agenda reads:
-Discuss and take action authorizing the issuance of a written notice to City Manager regarding his termination as required by City Charter.
-Consider and take possible action to place the City Manager on paid administrative leave and on appointment of an acting city manager.
However, it will take a quorum to pass the items, and with Hudgens now unable to vote as mayor, the vote most likely will be two to two, if a vote is taken. Lucas said a two-to-two vote is recorded as a “No” vote.
When asked if the special meeting would be cancelled, City Attorney John Robert Montgomery said, “We can’t cancel the special meeting.”
Judge Payton required Lucas to post a $25,000 bond to cover attorneys’ and other fees, if needed, and Lucas was working on posting the bond Monday afternoon.
In his finding, Judge Payton agreed with Sullivan.
“The city jumped the gun,” he said about the move to appoint Hudgens.
The petition asked for the injunction on the grounds that Hudgens was not appointed mayor as provided by the charter. Sullivan argued that outgoing Mayor Julie Ferguson should not have been allowed a vote because she was not the mayor after the election. Ferguson made the motion that Hudgens be appointed mayor, and voted for his appointment.
Sullivan argued that Hudgens’ appointment was premature, and that the city commissioners “jumped the gun” when appointing Hudgens. Hudgens was appointed mayor after the winner of the Sallisaw election, George Bormann, could not serve. The charter said the waiting period to determine if the elected person was not qualified was 30 days. Hudgens was appointed 21 days after the election.
Sullivan argued that the city charter requires that a new mayor should be determined in a special election.
“He should not be acting as mayor,” Sullivan argued. “My client’s fate should be decided by a democratically-elected board of commissioners.”
Montgomery, arguing on behalf of the city, argued that Hudgens was qualified, and supported his argument by citing case law.
“He has been terminated,” Montgomery said about Lucas. “He has other remedies. He has other avenues. He can file a lawsuit.”
Judge Payton replied he was not being asked to determine Lucas’ future but Hudgens’ standing as mayor.
Judge Payton delivered his decision on the temporary injunction after studying the case law, then told the attorneys to prepare their arguments on a permanent injunction as quickly as possible.
“We will hold a hearing on the permanent injunction as soon as you’re ready,” he said.
MixTV Channel 19 will broadcast this meeting live on Monday night, Nov 20, beginning at 6 pm.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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