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Property owners to foot bill for Guthrie officer’s back pay

GUTHRIE, Okla. -- Property owners in Guthrie will see a hike in property taxes to pay back a police officer who was reinstated after being fired.

According to Guthrie City Attorney Randel Shadid, the city owes Lt. Mark Bruning around $190,000 after he was fired for an incident during a Mumford & Sons concert in 2013.

Bruning arrested his then-girlfriend's ex-husband, Kyle White, for public intoxication, despite an Incident Action Plan issued by the Chief of Police directing officers to make arrests only as a last resort.

Charges against White were eventually dropped, and Bruning was fired as a result.

An arbitrator ruled the City of Guthrie wrongfully terminated Bruning, adding he should return to the department with back pay. He returned in May 2017.

Shadid says the settlement doesn't mean Bruning will automatically get a pay check for $190,000. Instead, there are multiple factors that contribute to the figure.

"Under Oklahoma law, the city and the police officer contribute to the state pension funds so that’s what we have to contribute for the city’s share of pension and that’s withholding of taxes and FICA and everything officers get," he explains.

Shadid says the city council has placed the settlement as a property tax for the next three years. Property owners who own a $100,000 home will have to pay $1.66-a-month, which comes to a total of about $60 over the next three years. He says property taxes will be adjusted based on home price.

Guthrie resident Nancy Allen says she doesn't think the legal ordeal should have reached this far.

"It is absurd in my opinion," says Allen. "There’s no excuse for carrying it out on decision after decision."

However, resident Alan Nagle says he's not critical of the council's decision. In fact, he's being supportive.

"I’m fine with that. I have confidence in our city council, and I like the fact that they roll it back," says Nagle.

Shadid says the council did look into tapping an emergency fund, but it was not a realistic option. Those funds are dedicated to unpredictable emergencies which were not planned for in the budget, such as floods or tornado damage.

We're told it's unclear when these new taxes will go into effect, but the procedure will be discussed with the district attorney.