It was another dramatic blow to the town, which has been struggling with controversies surrounding its EMS that fell under Parrish’s responsibility.
“It’s just kind of a shock. We’ll just have to deal with it,” said Interim Town Coordinator Shirley Lett. “I wouldn’t say it’s going to be easy.”
Rumors of exactly what caused the “toxic environment” have started to spread. Trustee J.D. Prather told Tulsa 2News that three of the town’s five trustees had pushed Parrish and others out, like former Town Coordinator Martin Tucker.
“That doesn’t make any sense. He wasn’t forced out by us,” Mayor and Trustee Josh Brown said about Parrish. “He was forced out by those ads… He has a contract and we can’t protect him anymore. We can’t protect him from free speech.”
He added that the town had wanted to keep Parrish, which is why they worked with him on creating and approving his new contract that began July 1.
Several Skiatook residents, known as Skiatook Citizens for a Better Government, purchased ads in the Skiatook Journal about Parrish and the EMS, which has been under fire this last year. The most recent full page ad attacking Parrish said: “The Fire Chief takes our Gold and gives us the Shaft. The Fire Chief Takes Much but Gives Little. The Fire Chief is known as the ‘Bully’. His Employees are Silent and Afraid to Speak. Heart attacks can Wait. The Fire Chief has more Important Matters. Mercy Ambulance Is Available,” among several other accusations.
Brown described the people responsible for the ads as an “impossible group.”
Skiatook resident Victor Waters is one member of Skiatook Citizen for a Better Government.
“I would take Marty and Dale over [Waters],” Brown said about the former town coordinator and fire chief.
Waters was also responsible for the complaint filed with the state regarding the Skiatook EMS’ non-emergency procedures. The state is now requiring the EMS to take all non-emergency patients to the hospital of their choice in the area, including Tulsa hospitals, beginning August 1. Previously non-emergency patients were taken to the closest hospital, which was often in Owasso.
“I don’t want to see him go,” Brown said about Parrish. “He was not on our chopping block.” Before Parrish, the town had been without a fire chief for two years while searching for a new candidate, according to Brown. “Skiatook deserves the best,” he added.
Brown also voiced concerns with being able to find an equal replacement for Parrish amid all the controversy.
Parrish is one of three major town employees to leave in the last month. Town Coordinator Martin Tucker resigned at the end of June and Town Attorney Joel Barnaby resigned two weeks ago. Barnaby’s last day will be July 31. He resigned for a collegiate teaching position at Cameron University.
Tucker resigned in June. His last day was June 31, the last day of his contract with the town. Earlier this year the town trustee voted not to renew Tucker’s contract, although he could continue working without a contract. Tucker was also under fire in several ads in the Journal.
Town Treasurer and Clerk Shirley Lett has stepped in as the interim coordinator, and Barnaby is working with Jeff Stephens, who is the interim attorney.
Brown will also be leaving at the end of his elected term next April. He will be moving to Jenks with his wife and son, who are already there, so his son Jayden, who has DeMosier’s Syndrome and is blind as a result, can attend a school with a program for vision-impaired students.
Assistant Fire Chief Bryn Burgess will be the interim for Parrish, but not for too long. He is also the EMS director. Both the fire chief and EMS director position are full-time jobs, according to Brown.
Brown are also worried about what the continued resignations in the town will mean for employees, especially those in the fire and EMS departments. “They have been to hell and back. Right now there is no end in sight,” Brown said. “I just hope we don’t lose any more.”