Lawton councilman discusses heated exchange

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) – One Lawton City Councilman is speaking out after a heated argument at Tuesday's council meeting.

The discussion started when Ward 5 City Councilman Dwight Tanner made a motion to terminate City Manager Jerry Ihler's contract. That quickly led to Lawton Mayor Fred Fitch asking the police chief to remove Tanner from the meeting.

7NEWS spoke with Mayor Fitch on the phone Wednesday morning. He did not want to do an interview but said that he stood by everything he said during last night's meeting.

What started as a civil discussion about a proposed motion quickly turned hostile. Tanner said he likes Mayor Fred Fitch, but said when they've worked together they haven't always gotten along.

"This is a culmination of years of years, I've been working with the mayor for years. He's always had an attitude of what I could consider...he's a higher class, I'm a lower class. He's white collar, I'm blue collar. I work with my hands, he works with the pen. He treats me like on several occasions like I'm his minimum wage employee. Shut up, like he's actually told me that on the council floor. Shut up," Tanner said.

Tanner said at Tuesday night's meeting he'd reached the point where he'd been pushed one too many times. That's what ultimately led to Mayor Fitch asking Police Chief James Smith to remove Tanner from the meeting. But Tanner said Fitch doesn't even have the authority to do, according to Lawton's City Charter, Section C-2-5.

"City Charter plainly states that the mayor, the council, elected officials, cannot tell any employee what to do," Tanner said. "That authority lies with the city manager. We can't tell the chief of police to go arrest somebody. Or go have someone expelled from the council meeting."

Tanner said going forward, he doesn't think last night's incident will affect the council as a whole.

"You have so many bulls in on pasture, they're going to butt heads occasionally. We're going to get past this. This isn't something that we're going to dwell on. We're going to say our apologies and get past it," Tanner said.

Tanner said he is very sorry for the way he handled this Tuesday night.

"I do want to apologize to the citizens of Lawton. It's unprofessional for an elected official to lose their temper as I did. After being pressed for so long, you can only handle so much. I lost it, told the mayor how I felt and when I see the mayor again I will apologize in person," Tanner said.

7NEWS reached out to Lawton's City Attorney to follow up on Tanner's claims that the mayor violated the city charter and to see if there was any punishment for that. We were told he was unavailable.

As for the issue that started it all, Tanner said he again will make a motion to fire City Manager Jerry Ihler, citing again the reasons he gave at Tuesday's council meeting. But, he said next time they talk about it, it will likely be behind closed doors in executive session.

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