Mustang city manager resigns

By Carolyn Cole – Mustang News

Mustang City Council members will review qualifications Tuesday night to pick an interim city manager after accepting Mike Rutledge’s resignation this week.

The Council met in executive session for two hours and 40 minutes Wednesday night before deciding to appoint Justin Battles as interim city manager until their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

Mike Rutledge

Mike Rutledge

Ward 3 Councilwoman Linda Bowers cast the lone vote against the appointment. Ward 2 Councilman Mark Grubbs was absent.

Mayor Jay Adams said Rutledge’s decision came so quickly and was a surprise to Council members.

“Several members of the Council wanted to do a qualifications review of who is actually qualified to be an interim city manager,” he said. “The only way we could come to an agreement on how to do this was to appoint somebody for the next five days, ask for qualifications from the people we have to choose from as an interim, and then review them on Tuesday at the Council meeting.”

Adams said the consideration will likely include Battles and Police Chief Chuck Foley, the department heads who volunteered for the interim role. Battles is Mustang’s Parks and Recreation Department director.

Adams said Bowers had received a recommendation for a potential candidate from outside the city staff, and she would ask him to provide his qualifications for review.

Council members approved unanimously a motion to “mutually end Mike Rutledge’s employment as city manager and approve the mutual termination of the employment agreement dated as of Feb. 13, 2013.”

The mutual termination agreement states Rutledge will receive a one-time severance payment of $9,878.70, or 10 percent of his base salary. Rutledge had received $98,767 annually under his contract. Benefits included health insurance, retirement contributions, a $500 per month vehicle allowance and $100 per month cell phone allowance.

Adams said Rutledge’s resignation was effective immediately. Earlier last week, it was believed that Rutledge would serve until March 1.

“I have two different job offers I am looking at,” Rutledge said. “I think those are opportunities I would like to look into. I wanted to give them plenty of advance notice of what I am doing so they can make arrangements with budget coming up to make sure they have got it covered.”

In his resignation letter, Rutledge wrote his 10 years of service with the city has opened doors for him, and he has made many friends. Rutledge started as a code inspector and served as the community development director before becoming interim city manager when David Cockrell announced his departure. Rutledge was hired as city manager on Oct. 29, 2009.

“My time as city manager has not been without controversy,” he wrote. “I vowed to make changes as city manager, and I have. I have always felt like it is my responsibility to insure the citizens of Mustang have the best service they can have in a cost-effective manner. I did this every day.”

During his tenure, Rutledge saw the departure of two financial directors. He fired longtime Police Chief Monte James and faced heat over his decision to divide up the city’s public works operation. He has also faced criticism for errors and clerical mistakes in Council agendas.

Bright moments for the city included voters’ approval of a bond package to expand the Mustang Public Library and the Town Center banquet hall as well as to build a new baseball complex.

Rutledge also served on a team that worked with SSM Healthcare officials to bring a St. Anthony Healthplex, which is expected to break ground in May. City leaders are hopeful a surge of new businesses will ride in on St. Anthony’s coattails.

Adams said Rutledge’s leaving comes at a critical time in Mustang’s development. He said he feels it is important to find the right person to step in as Mustang’s next city manager.

“We want to find somebody who is a heavy-hitter,” he said. “Somebody who has a lot of experience, somebody who is going to take Mustang to that next level. We are hoping we are going to hit one out of the park on this one.”

When Rutledge was hired, the City Council had hired an outside search firm but cut that project in midstream. Adams said this time he would like to see Mustang conduct its own national search.

“Granted this has not been approved by the Council, but my intention is to not hire a company but to utilize the full weight of the Oklahoma Municipal League and use the full weight of several national groups to put out a nationwide call for applications for the city of Mustang,” he said.

 

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