The Tucumcari City Commission voted 3-2 to fire City Manager Doug Powers at Thursday night’s regular meeting. The surprise move came at the end of the commission’s regular meeting.
Commissioners Jimmy Sandoval, Ernie Dominguez and Dora Salinas-McTigue voted to dismiss Powers. Commissioners Robert Lumpkin and Mayor Amiel Curnutt voted against the move.
The motion to dismiss Powers was made by Sandoval, who said Powers had been “unresponsive to requests” for action from commissioners and moved to dismiss Powers based on “nonperformance.”
Dominguez said communications between commissioners and Powers had been “real sporadic.” He said Powers had been ignoring the municipal cemetery and other things that are “real important to this town.”
Lumpkin said the motion was out of order, since it was not presented as an agenda item for action, but was listed on the agenda in the “Items from Commissioners” section, in which voting does not regularly occur.
Lumpkin added, “I’ve seen things improve” under Powers. He said gross receipts taxes are up, and that he has seen Powers take action on “each and every complaint” that comes to the city.
“This is premature and disingenuous,” he said of the move to fire Powers. “We need to check the legality of this. This is totally under duress.”
Mayor Amiel Curnutt said, “I think we’re making a terrible mistake” by terminating Powers. “He’s the most cooperative manager we’ve had,” he added.
On Friday, Curnutt said that he and Lumpkin were seeking a legal opinion on Thursday’s vote from City Attorney Randy Knudson. Knudson was not available for comment.
When asked for specifics after the meeting about why they voted to fire Powers, Dominguez had no comment, and Sandoval only said, “non-performance.”
Salinas-McTigue said Powers had failed to hire more personnel at the Tucumcari wastewater treatment plant, and had allowed Tucumcari’s trash dump to take garbage from other communities so that new cells must be added to the Tucumcari landfill.
Powers became city manager in April 12, 2012, after serving as acting city manager since Sept. 29, 2011. Powers became acting city manager after the commission fired Bobbye Rose from the city manager post.
Powers has been working for the city for 20 years.