Impasse: No New Luther Town Trustee

Bison Blinds

The four Trustees of the Luther Town Board could not agree Tuesday night on who to select to fill a vacancy on the board. Two “candidates” put in their names for consideration: Mike McClure and Andy McDaniels. A third person, Ron Johnson, did not attend the meeting.

McClure told the board he had 37 years of service with the City of Oklahoma City before retiring. Working in planning, zoning, historic preservation and the Board of Adjustment, McClure at times supervised 45 “folks,” worked with contracts and building permits. He and his wife, Karen, have made their home in Luther since 1988 and have been business owners in the town since 1981.

Andy McDaniels, a former Town Board member, said he has been executive director of the Oklahoma Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation. He has more than 23 years experience in grant writing and raised his sons in Luther along with his wife, Tami.

Following the introductions, Trustee Ron Henry said he “recommended” McClure for the job.  Langley then immediately motioned to appoint McDaniels to the post. From there, an impasse grew over whether Henry should have “motioned” to vote for McClure instead of “recommending” him.

McDaniels was considered with a vote:  Langley and Carolyn Lawson voted yes; Henry voted no and Mayor Cecelia Taft abstained.

Without a majority vote decision, the issue was tabled until the next meeting. Asked why she abstained, Taft declined to comment.

The open seat was vacated by Lea Ann Jackson who resigned on June 9, 2016. The board has 60 days to appoint a new trustee or decide to hold a special election. Board members Tuesday night indicated it would be too expensive to hold a special election and then have to turn around and do it again in April 2017.

In other news:

The board ejected the public while they held an executive session. Behind closed doors the four trustees met with Eastern Oklahoma County Partnership Executive Director Tim Hight.

The executive session item stated “Conferring on Matters Pertaining to Economic Development where Public Disclosure of the Matter Discussed would violate the Confidentiality of the Business.”

IMG_4893 (1)
Members of the public wait outside while the Luther Town Board meets in executive session about a secret “economic development” issue.

Following the executive session, the board stated it took no action. As Hight was leaving the meeting, he was asked for any sort of comment or hint about the secrecy. While continuing to walk away, he was firm in his statement of “no comment.” When pressed, he said, “as soon as we can, we will comment publicly.”

The Town of Luther pays $442 monthly to EOCP that is housed in Choctaw and says has a mission to “become a one-stop resource for creating, promoting, and sustaining jobs and investment in Eastern Oklahoma County.”

When the Town Board meeting proceeded, the four members passed several routine contract items with various Oklahoma county entities involving fire equipment, use of the jail and other agreements.

The board also considered increases in several fees that were not considered during budget discussions before the new fiscal year began July 1, 2016:

  • Consideration to put $25 of each police citation in a fund for the police department’s disposal to fund routine items on the budget. Henry said averaging 100 tickets written a month (April – 95 tickets, May-120  and June-94) would give the police department $2,500 monthly, and he said there would be an accountability issue with the public. The motion failed.
  • The Chicken Shack on Rte 66 is one of the businesses subject to the increase in business license fees.
    The NEW Chicken Shack on Rte 66 is one of the businesses subject to  increased license fees due next April.

    Passed: raising the business license fee from $50. Lawson said the town was behind in raising those fees charged to businesses who set up shop in Luther. The board voted to raise the business fee to $125.

  • Tabled. Consideration to put $25 away each month for the town’s Rainy Day Fund. Henry argued the town should be saving more money than that to cope with future emergencies such as a sewer failure or other problems. The board is expected to reconsider its savings plan for the Town and LPWA at a future meeting. The town currently has $170 in its Rainy Day Fund and $234 in the LPWA Rainy Day Fund (as of June 30, 2016).
  • Passed. Raising the peddler and vendor fee from $5 to $100. The board members were unclear about who the fees would apply to – fundraisers for community members, traveling businesses, etc., but the fee increase passed unanimously.
  • Passed. Raising the fee for firework sales to $250 for a permit plus a $250 deposit refundable if the site is cleaned.

The meeting was broadcast to more than 50 viewers on Periscope, an app most easily accessed on a mobile phone. Fewer than 20 members of the public (outside of staff) attended the meeting at the Community Building.

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