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July 29, 2017

Spending, Accusing and Other Town Board Actions


It’s been almost a week since the last Luther Town Board Meeting.

Normally, The Luther Register is out with a recap story before the sun comes up after a meeting. Not this time. This particular meeting offered a lot to take in. Since the meetings are now broadcast on Periscope (click here to watch it or watch it again), it was all there to watch again and transcribe the words and recount actions taken at the last meeting. Not even all of it will be covered in this story.

img_5977Town Trustee Ron Henry was there. It was his first public appearance since being charged in Oklahoma County District Court with voter fraud and trespassing allegations. He said his counsel advised him to not talk to the media, but he maintains his innocence. He has a court date in October.

The first interesting agenda item concerned a new step in the process of allowing citizen comments at meetings. The board voted to require a form for citizens to fill out before the meeting. Board member Andy McDaniels said when he was on the board previously “years and years ago,” public comments became a problem.

img_5978“For a long period of time, town’s people were showing up at town meetings and getting out of hand. The police had to remove people. The purpose of a meeting is to conduct town business not to have a fiasco and fighting,” said McDaniels.

He said the new form doesn’t change the amount of time citizens may speak; it just provides a record of who says what.

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Comments are welcome on The Luther Register’s Periscope Broadcast. Here former Mayor Jackson reacts to demands she return a town budget.

It was during that agenda item, that the Board heard from Craig Jackson. He is the husband of former Mayor Lea Ann Jackson who was out of town. Mr. Jackson wanted to speak on that item because he said the public needs a way to speak to the board.

He pointed out it was during public comments at the last Special Board meeting when Jackson reported that Mayor Taft had called Jackson’s workplace to report that Jackson was asking for documents through a legal Open Records Request option. It was during that meeting that Jackson called for Taft’s resignation and promised legal action on tortious interference. By the way, Jackson continues to pursue legal action compounded by the action the board took at this meeting.

After Jackson’s comment, the board summarily approved the new public comment form.

The meeting went on with approval for hotel rooms for fire training and Fire Prevention Week materials for elementary students and purchasing a four gas monitor to protect town employees from harm when they have to go to places that might have noxious fumes (and to comply with the law). They also approved a raise for the embattled position of Town Clerk & Treasurer from $60 to $200 a month. However, the raise requires an ordinance change. (There was no copy of the current ordinance at the meeting, nor did the attorney offer guidelines on how to proceed). And no one has applied for the job that was vacated on August 9, 2016, by Trandy Langston. The position is supposed to be filled in 60 days from the resignation.

Then there was the item about the OG&E money. For several weeks, The Luther Register and others had been asking about a sudden infusion of almost $3,000 into the Rainy Day Fund. We had unconfirmed reports that Mayor Taft had taken it upon herself to use the infusion of $26,604.73 from OG&E to pay off some Town loans at the bank and put some into the Rainy Day (savings) Fund. Paying off debt is a great idea, but some asked whether this was the way to do it? Although she didn’t respond to repeated questions about it, the answer came during this meeting.

The agenda item read:

Consideration discussion and possible action regarding receipt of OG&E franchise tax check in the amount of $26,604.73 and use to payoff of police cars $12,070.64; 112 S Main $6,783; Police Station $4,928.96 and deposit into rainy day fund of $2822.13.

However, according to bank records, the money already had spent more than a month before it was on the agenda.

Trustee Ron Henry asked about it.

“Who authorized payment to these different entities because I wasn’t aware of it,” said Henry.

Taft said, “that’s where the money went. We have no more loans at the bank.”

Before the vote, Luther resident Shawn Paine had a comment.

“It seems to me this was a unilateral decision made outside the board … I doubt the legality of the action.

Any funds that come to the town have to be handled by the board … not by a member of the board. Unless I’m completely misunderstanding how the board of a town works.

So I think its important to be noted, and they don’t really have a choice now than to legitimize the decision one member made;  because they cant just take the money back. It doesn’t matter if you vote to approve it or not. It’s done. I would urge you not to. That person should face whatever choices they’ve made,” said Paine.

Without further comment, the board voted. Henry was the only NO vote. The rest of the board rubber-stamped the way the surprise money from OG&E was spent without board approval given in a public forum.

Then came the controversial Item #17 on the agenda.

It stated:

Consideration, discussion and possible action to direct the Town Attorney to contact the former mayor, Lea Ann Jackson (the name was spelled incorrectly on the agenda), to have her return the 2016/2017 budget, any payroll information or other Town documents she might have in her possession.

Mr. Jackson spoke on behalf of his wife again, reiterating that the item itself called into question the former mayor’s integrity, implying she was withholding something that belonged to the town.

He had three questions:

  1. Has the board ever asked an ex-board member for documents, or was this another attempt to intimidate Lea Ann?
  2. Would the board retract #17 from the agenda and publicly apologize?
  3. And how many errors in judgement in this misstep will you allow the mayor to make before you ask her to resign?

 

The Board did not respond to the request and voted. Henry voted no. McDaniels abstained. And Taft, Carolyn Lawson and Birlene Langley voted yes to get the attorney to ask Mrs. Jackson for the paperwork.

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In her correspondence with Town Attorney Ray Vincent, Lea Ann Jackson said she was open to resolving the situation over email.

“Do we agree that the Town has the budget that was printed in the newspaper, included in the resolution and approved by the Board?  It hasn’t been well defined what it is they are wanting but I’m assuming that it is the spreadsheet that I created to facilitate discussion by the Board and assist me in developing the budget which was ultimately printed, submitted and approved.  It would be my opinion that the spreadsheet is no different than notes made by any Board member in preparation for a meeting,” Lea Ann Jackson wrote.

There were a few other actions and observations from the meeting; that’s for another story or two.

Meantime, the Town Board called another Special Meeting. It will be held Wednesday at 6 pm at Town Hall.

3 Responses “Spending, Accusing and Other Town Board Actions”

  1. Pam Green
    September 20, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Does anybody recall the recurring episodes on The Carol Burnett Show called “As The Stomach Turns”? This ongoing saga with our local government reminds me of that show.

  2. Profile photo of Luther Register September 20, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Copied from a Facebook comment:
    Kimberly Teague Free Since the previous special meeting I contacted the Oklahoma State Election board and the Oklahoma County Election board. Both referred me to the Oklahoma Municipal League. Each one of the agencies stated they have never heard of this kind of issue before. OML instructed me to speak with the Town Attorney that he would be able to help me resolve this issue for the Citizens of Luther. I explained that he was just hired by our Board the night before and I was not sure where his loyalties lay. She assured me that he works for the Citizens of Luther, he is there to advise the Board on procedures, not take direction from them. At the meeting, a Citizen asked, after several statements made by the Board and the Town Attorney, if he was there for the Citizens or the Board. The very first words out of Mayor Taft’s mouth were that “he works for the board”. He himself stated this. Then they quickly retracted when my hand shot up to be recognized (I was completely ignored). I felt the Citizens in attendance had a right to know that I spoken to OML on this very issue. Since I was not recognized to speak, I asked the Town Attorney if I may speak with him after the meeting. I explained that there are a lot of fed up citizens who have called publicly for the resignation of the Mayor and also some have called for the resignation of Trustee Henry. I told him the other offices I had spoken to and they told me he would help me. First of all he stated they never did that (paraphrased). Then he went on to state he would not take a single citizen nor a group of citizens against the board. Last statement was he is not employed by me. I felt there was nothing left to say because he was already hostile and I felt my breath would be better spent trying another avenue. I have contacted the DA office but he was in trial all last week. However his office did tell me that the Town Attorney is incorrect and he should have helped me as I am a Citizen of Luther. I agree that more people need to contact the DA office. If you watch periscope or attend the meetings in person, you will see questions being asked that are either not answered, or guilty looks turned away while shuffling papers and making snide comments to one another. At the time I only had an issue with two people sitting on a platform who have robbed the Citizens of Luther of being represented by a Professional Board member. Now watching the video on periscope, I am appalled by the comments made openly in front of Citizens, whispering while Citizens are speaking, the ugly faces (for a lack of a better term) made when a board member does not like something a Citizen says or questions being asked. The Trustees each requested for that position before they were ever elected. You knew full and well that you would be setting in front of a group of Citizens and should be acting professional. You knew with the history in the past, that it is a “hot seat’, that Citizens may say some things you do not want to hear, and may ask questions you do not want to answer. But you chose to run for that position. Take it and be professional, show some integrity. If you have committed a crime or are under investigation, you should excuse yourself until the matter is resolved. If you cannot make a business decision without bias, or personal disdain for a member of our town or a previous board member, your time is up! Come April, Citizens of Luther please remember DO NOT elect a person who is willing to do ANYTHING to take that seat!

  3. Laura McCuddy
    September 20, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    There are several reasons I, myself, no longer attend town meetings. When I was the Town Clerk/Treasurer/Office Manager, several times I informed the board during meetings that their actions were illegal. I was informed once by the current Mayor to “be quiet and let us conduct our meeting.” To know that there are illegal activities going on and the powers that be are not trying to correct them, I can in no way be a part of that. Hence the reason I resigned.

Have a thought? Please share. And thanks.

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