Video: Council members share heated exchange

Video: Council members share heated exchange

The Guthrie city council shared some heated moments Tuesday night during their discussion regarding the City’s purchase and issuance of the Guthrie Police Department’s ammunition.

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In the July 2 council meeting, council member Don Channel questioned the police department’s ammunition purchasing practices and requested to discuss the topic at length.

“The research that I’ve done, I think we are spending way too much toward ammunition,” Channel said.

The video of the more than 40 minute discussion can be viewed at the end of this article.

Channel, who last month questioned the collections by the Guthrie
Fire Department’s ambulance service, shared a power point presentation on the
amount of money the police department (GPD), Logan County Sheriff’s Office
(LCSO), Chickasha Police Department and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) spend
a year.

Channel’s report looked at the spending in a one year time frame for ammunition, including OHP $130,000, Chickasha $5,880 and LCSO $8,661. For GPD, the report showed $28,200 in just nine months.

Police Chief Don Sweger told council members the department has averaged $20,354.16 in ammunition cost over the last four years. Records show the department spent has spent $26,619.13 in the current budget year compared to $19,762.39 in 2018, $21,745.21 in 2017 and $13,289.90 in 2016.

“In ’16 our budget was $13,000,” Channel said. “From (20)16 to (20)19 it’s over doubled. I’m here to make sure that doesn’t become standard practice.”

Sweger responded, “That’s perfectly acceptable.”

City Manager Leroy Alsup questioned some of Channel’s findings.

“To some degree this chart is over simplified and somewhat inflated by just looking at one year and not looking at the average. If you only look at the one year it could be skewed. You could be looking at a situation where a community had stock piled the year before and you happen to pick the year they were down because they are buying less bullets that year. Could be because the number of turnovers that we have and re-certifying new officers may put more demand on the numbers that we use. So if you only look at one year the numbers get skewed.”

Channel’s proposed solution, although a formal motion was not presented for a council vote, included one box of ammunition per month (600 rounds), 100 per officer for qualifying, 300 rounds per officer for shotgun/rifle practice. The combined 1,000 rounds would equal to $300 per officer each year at a total price of $9,000.

According to Channel, a savings of $20,000 a year.

“That $20,000 can be spent, to me, in a lot other places other than popping it up on the range,” Channel said. “I’m for the guys (officers) for having what they need and I’m not trying to clip their wings.”

Sweger said he was willing to do what the council chooses to do, but expect the police department’s union to have a say in the matter.

“The council makes the rules. I am more than willing to do whatever you want to do to change the rules,” Sweger said. “You give me the guidance and that’s the road we will absolutely go down, but some of these things to decide unilaterally up here you’re going to meet resistance with the union.”

Channel said, “The union can get bent out of shape over it, but is the union going ‘we (Guthrie) are eight times worse than the highway patrol so we need that many more bullets.’ It really doesn’t make any sense.”

Channel later questioned why there was over 100,000 rounds of ammo in storage. “That’s enough to take care of every man, woman and child in this city ten times over. What are we saving them for?”

Sweger said the high amount was due to the shortage of personnel.

“We have not been able to do either one of our qualifications (CLEET training) this year. Once we get the qualifications in that number will drop significantly.”

While Alsup questioned some of Channel’s numbers on his report, he did agree there needs to be some changes when it comes ammunition.

“I think Mr. Channel has made some good points. Can we probably do a better job of controlling the use of ammo? I agree, yes. Do we need a written policy on the use storage and handling of ammunition? Yes, I agree with you there. You raise some good points. I just don’t want to us to do a knee jerk reaction over one look of this and try to set a limit without exploring it some more and giving staff time to look at some written policies, some standards, work with our union and come back with a later date with  something to propose.”

Channel responded, “My opinion on that. Staff (Sweger) has been here four or five years. Staff had time to put that there where he wants it. If he hadn’t changed it then he agrees with it. So, he’s not looking to do anything about it.”

Ultimately, council member Chuck Burtcher made a motion to table the discussion for three months and find a solution. Member James Long second the motion, but the vote failed 2-5 with Long and Burtcher being the lone yes votes.

Council members exchange heated moments

Member Gaylord Z. Thomas shared concerns of Channel micromanaging the City staff.

“I applaud Councilman Channel’s keen interests in these issues such as the fire department’s ambulance rates as well as the police department’s ammunition usage. I think we need to pause and take notice of the fact these requests are coming from an individual council member and they are tasking our city staff to take a considerable amount of time to formally present their research to answer the questions posed to them. I wouldn’t be surprised if this took you (Sweger) over 40 hours to put this together. I’m not saying these are valid concerns or good questions, but I’ve found that an informal visit with the city manager usually provides me with an adequate answer to my concerns. What I’m really trying to say is that we need to be more careful about requesting too many of these type of presentations that take a lot of staff man hours to put together.

Thomas continued, “We cannot get into the business of micromanaging the staff and that is what it looks like to me that we are doing. We have department heads and we have a city manager and that’s we pay them to do their jobs.”

Channel quickly responded, “Sir, it is not micromanagement. I was elected by the people to come up here and see to it that we do the best we can” and that is when Channel quickly questioned council member Jeff Taylor, who was seen shaking his head.

“Mr. Taylor, do you have a problem,” Channel asked.

Taylor said “yeah, I do” and Channel came back with “okay, go ahead and say it.”

As Taylor pointed one finger at Long and another finger at Channel he said, “The problem is you two.”

Mayor Steve Gentling intervened the back and forth discussion.

Channel continued his thoughts on Thomas’ remarks.

“I’m sorry that you assume this frivolous and time wasting, but I guarantee you there is a whole bunch of people that voted to put me in here that is glad that I’m trying to lose $20,000. Mr. Taylor if you would like to put $20,000 in the kitty we’ll make this go away right now.”

Later in the meeting, during council comments, Long’s only comment was, “Sorry I interrupted your party Jeff (Taylor).”

Channel finished his thoughts on the discussion in his final comments.

“I came tonight trying to do what I feel like the people elected me to do. I brought it out. I exposed the problem and this council elected not to do anything about it. So, if you’re watching this and you don’t like that it wasn’t handled, I guess you can take it up with them at the ballots.”

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