Departure of Booth Illustrates Problem at Regulatory Agencies

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The federal bank regulatory agencies pay a steep price - in terms of losing experienced bank examiners - because of the ceilings on examiners' salaries, according to Wayne Booth, former administrator of the Oklahoma City field office of the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency.

"We have trouble keeping experienced examiners," he said. "This hurts the regulatory agencies, and it hurts the banking industry, in general."

That is especially true, banking industry observers have said, at a time when the comptroller's office is swamped with keeping track of record numbers of "problem banks," particularly in the Southwest.

Booth, who left the comptroller's office last week to join a Kansas multi-bank holding company, topped out on the salary scale at $70,800 per year in 1979. He had not had a raise since then.

He stayed with the comptroller's office for a total of 21 1/2 years, until Fourth Financial Corp. of Wichita made him an offer that he said he couldn't refuse. He joined their staff Monday as a vice president of loan administration for the holding company and its 11 banks, including BankFour in Wichita.

"I didn't think I would ever leave," he said. "But I had come to a point in my life where I needed to make some major changes."

Married and the father of three children, Booth could no longer say "no" to a job that offered more opportunity.

Melanie K. Smith has been named acting director of the comptroller's Oklahoma City field office. A 12-year veteran of the comptroller's office, she has a degree from Arizona State University.

Meanwhile, a nationwide search for a permanent replacement has begun.

Old banking hands say Booth will be sorely missed. He was widely respected for being a tough, but fair, bank examiner, with a flair for dealing with people - including reporters.

He had come to Oklahoma City in August 1983 to organize the comptroller's local field office, which was set up as part of a nationwide reorganization of that agency in the wake of Penn Square Bank's collapse.

"I would say that Wayne will be extremely tough to replace," said Owen Carney, deputy comptroller and director of the agency's investment securities division in Washington, D.C.

Carney, like Booth, has worked for the comptroller's office for two decades.

"It's a terrible loss," said Melissa Mager, banking liaison for Gov. Henry Bellmon.

Booth had met with Bellmon to discuss the governor's proposed legislation for helping Oklahoma's struggling banks survive, she said. . .

- Lee R. Symcox has been promoted to senior vice president in the commercial lending area at City National Bank & Trust Co. in Norman. He has been with the bank five years, and has 13 years total experience in banking. He is completing his final year at the Stonier School of Banking at the University of Delaware. . .

- "How to Make Your Retirement Money Work - Once You've Stopped" is the title of a free seminar scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday in the offices of Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. in the Waterford complex.

The seminar will include some information geared to people who may be affected by a staff reduction program, according to Marc Sommers of Dean Witter Reynolds. Lump-sum settlements will be explained, as well as tax consequences and rollovers on Individual Retirement Accounts, he said. . .

- Area financial planners can kick off St. Patrick's Day, which is Tuesday, with a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Oklahoma City Chapter of the International Association for Financial Planning.

The meeting will begin at 7 a. …