Tahlequah City Council confirmed the resignation of four employees this week, with a handful of employees resigning in recent weeks, citing some inconveniences or an uncomfortable work environment.
City councilors entered an hour-long executive session on May 2 to discuss the resignation of city clerk DeAnna Hammons. Recently, issues have arisen regarding Hammons’ physical address, as she must have a Tahlequah address to serve in this capacity. The clerk is an elected office.
The Tahlequah Daily Press addressed the issue of Hammons’ residency in December 2020 after four people reported that she did not live within the city limits. At the time, Elections Committee Secretary Tiffany Rozell confirmed that Hammons was registered to vote in the city limits.
But on April 26, Mayor Sue Catron said information about Hammons’ residency came to light that suggested she didn’t live within the city limits after all.
District Councilor Trae Ratliff said it was frustrating that Hammons had to face the question, “Am I from Tahlequah or not?”
“There’s a city line but on the other side of that it’s really unfortunate that those are the rules – although you’re fully capable and have done a fantastic job and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with the last three years,” said Ratliff.
He said Hammons helped him in a similar situation before winning his city council seat.
“I don’t think your physical location — where you keep your toothbrush at night — should be a reflection of whether you were fully capable and held that office with the highest esteem, and you did an absolutely fantastic job,” Ratliff said .
When asked for an answer, Hammons said she had no comment at this time.
Catron said the other resignations were unrelated to Hammons’ departure.
“Our IT rep has resigned to take a position closer to home,” Catron said. “Our Parks and Recreation Director has advised that she will be leaving in June or July to assist her husband in his efforts.”
The mayor said the city cashier and her family were moving to Florida. Clerk Breonna Crittenden, administrative assistant Tesina O’Field, and purchasing agent Jericca Cramer all resigned in quick succession. Each termination letter stated a different reason for leaving.
O’Field said she was considering quitting because another employee had created a hostile work environment over the years.
“Often, doing the job of an elected official was also a consideration,” O’Field said. “However, it was when some people in management decided that their political careers were more important than the happiness of all employees as a whole [that] it got heartbreaking.”
She said that she ultimately decided to quit after an incident involving a colleague. She was prevented from helping the person who was escorted out of City Hall and locked out of her office.
“A few days before I was fired, some people started treating me like an outsider. I’ve been stripped of job responsibilities and told I’m not needed for meetings I attend regularly,” said O’Field.
She said resigning from City Hall was an extremely difficult decision.
“I really believed that I would help make Tahlequah a better place,” she said.
O’Field said that not all of her time at City Hall has been uncomfortable and that she is very proud of what she has achieved while working there.
“I’ve definitely learned some hard lessons, and as I stated in my resignation letter, I went above and beyond my duties. But sometimes it boils down to a person only being able to take so much,” O’Field said.
Catron said hiring so many new employees at once will be challenging. During the transition period, the department heads step in.
“Each of our departments is occasionally understaffed. It speaks to the strength of the team to see department heads step in to support whoever is struggling. I am very grateful for their help and understanding,” said Catron.
Crittenden declined to comment and Cramer could not be reached for comment at press time.