City manager ousted

By Chelle Delaney

Tucumcari City Manager John Sutherland was fired in a 3-2 vote on Thursday night at the City Commission meeting.

Sutherland was escorted from his office out the back door of city hall by a Tucumcari police officer.

“John, this is only because it is SOP (standard operating procedure),” Commissioner Jim Witcher told Sutherland.

After a closed executive session to consider Sutherland’s contract, Commissioner Jim Lafferty made the motion to terminate Sutherland. Lafferty, James Sandoval and Mayor Antonio Apodaca had the three votes to fire Sutherland.

“This was a difficult decision… but it’s in the best interests of the city, ” Apodaca said.

“I believe this is wrong,” said Witcher, who voted against firing Sutherland.

“John Sutherland has done an excellent job … great strides have been made for Tucumcari,” Witcher said.

“I don’t think this is good,” said Commissioner Robert Lumpkin, who also voted against the motion to terminate Sutherland.

“I think he has done a good job for Tucumcari,” said Lumpkin, who added that Sutherland’s termination would not put the city in a good light.

The commissioners provided no explanation of the action. Apodaca, on his way out of the meeting, said, “(we’d) like to go in a different direction.”

Two days ago, Sutherland said he was committed to Tucumcari and that he and his partner, Connie, had bought a house and had invested in Tucumcari.

Sutherland was hired on May 1, 2007, with an annually salary of $70,000.

Tucumcari City Fire Chief, Mike Cherry, was voted to become interim manager. Cherry, received three yes votes, and Lumpkin abstained.