At the audit board meeting that was held just five days before a pivotal election for four Town board seats, candidate Trandy Langston had a question that her professional experience led her to ask. She works in the title industry, and the issue involved the Town’s sale of land to WalMart three years ago.
It might not amount to anything, she doesn’t know. But if elected, Langston said she’ll be able to dig into records at Town Hall to find out on behalf of the Town. The question involves the Town’s delinquency on loan payments that the retailer’s title insurance might cover.
If candidate Jason Roach is elected, his job on day one will be to not only address the long list of auditor findings but also issues voters are concerned about. He suggests that each board member take on an area or two – whether it’s public safety, financials, updating ordinances and codes or infrastructure planning, and give regular status reports during board meetings and support to staff.
“It won’t take much. It’s called follow through,” said Roach, whose company, Triangle Silt Dike, is among Luther’s short list of businesses contributing to the Town’s sales tax base.
The audit was presented by Autumn Williams, CPA, Esq., of Russell & Williams CPA’s, PC of Oklahoma City. The Luther Register previewed her findings here. The audit portion of the March 30 meeting lasted more than an hour, and included more questions from candidates than from current board members. Williams repeated that much of the Town’s financial issues are the result of chronic turnover in office staff, and bickering among board members.
“If you get elected,” she said to the candidates, “concentrate on these internal controls.” She reiterated that the lack of controls led to a former employee being charged with embezzlement in 2014. That episode occurred when Cecilia Taft was serving as mayor and Birlene Langley was on the board.
After the audit presentation, board members made no public comment on the troubling findings and moved on with the rest of the agenda. Some of those issues involved spending unbudgeted money for an April 8 Town Easter Egg Hunt (they approved $300 to do it but hope for community donations), and arguing over the Seventh Street issue again. To watch the rebroadcast of the meeting, visit The Luther Register’s Facebook page.
Candidate Paxton Cavin said she was not surprised at the response the board members gave to the audit report. “It is still disappointing to know that our current leaders did not take any responsibility for the findings. Instead, board members passed the blame to previous boards, office staff, and the fact that ‘nothing ever gets implemented.’ I would like to point out that nothing will get implemented if the individual board members won’t do the implementing,” she said.
Candidate Herbert Keith commented that the audit looks bad. “What have we been doing? If there are bills to pay, pay them and have the documentation and revenue to take care of what needs to be taken care of.”[the_ad id=”4149″]Candidate Jenni White expressed her concerns after the meeting. “Budget. Did I say budget – like something you create to help you determine how to RESPONSIBLY spend town money? … The second priority would be to FOLLOW A BUDGET. The third priority would be to get a policy and procedures manual written for Town employees. Fourth would be to make sure bills are getting paid and salaries disbursed properly. Fifth would be develop an infrastructure plan for water/sewer and getting Town-owned buildings to code.”
McDaniels, who is running for a full term on the board, said the audit issues should be easy fixes. He served on the board years ago and was appointed last summer to succeed former Trustee and Mayor Lea Ann Jackson. “The harder part is going to be the ordinances … every time I start reading through the ordinance book I find something else that needs to be addressed,” he said. McDaniels emphasized during the meeting that the Town should push toward putting more information including ordinances, financials and minutes online for anyone to see in the interest of transparency.
Jackson also attended the meeting and presented a long list of the questions and concerns to the board and auditor. She said the problems exposed in the audit reflect a reason why she resigned – to not jeopardize her professional position as a CPA, and the aforementioned inability for the board to work on the issues amicably and professionally.
Cavin observed that the final moments of the meeting “showed a true lack of professionalism and decorum of our town leadership. After insulting a county official at a previous meeting, board members bickered about the need to apologize rather than just apologizing and moving forward. The Seventh Street argument was the same argument we have heard over and over. Lack of research and personal agendas were on full display as the board discussed using town money to pay for the reopening of the road despite the fact that it is Oklahoma County’s job to maintain roads.”
The election is Tuesday, April 4. Voters in Luther will elect three out of seven candidates for four-year terms; and four candidates for one seat to serve just two years to fulfill an unexpired term. The only board member not on the ballot is Ron Henry who faces trial on voter fraud charges next month. Taft is also involved in that case, although she is not charged. She told investigators that she notarized ballots in the 2015 Town election that prosecutors allege were fraudulently submitted.
The four-year candidates are: Langley, McDaniels, Langston, Cavin, White, Mike McClure and Ron Johnson. The two-year candidates are: Taft and Carolyn Lawson, Keith and Roach.
Watch the broadcast of the meeting here. Read our Voter Guide. Vote on Tuesday.
Luther Special Town Meeting, March 30
Posted by Luther Register News on Thursday, March 30, 2017
It’s beyond comprehension that a check would be written for anything and signed by 3 different officials without invoices and proper documentation! Also for the town to spend more than they have is idiocy! If we as private citizens did not pay our water bill you would turn off our water! There should be a job description for every job and board member and if you don’t do what is in that job description you are gone! If you agree on implementation of something and an employee decides on their own not to enforce it (taking cash payments) they are guilty of deriliction of their duties! The jobs of Treasurer, Town Clerk and and Court Clerk should not be combined as they conflict. If you have an Office Manager, they should be overseeing each of the other positions and the board is responsible for the actions of all of them. It’s amazing to hear that things just happen and no one will stop passing the buck. THE BUCK NEEDS TO BE STOPPED NOW! I worked years in OK County government and frankly it’s embarrassing to watch you all! I pray that we get new board members that will help our town and not have personal agendas for their positions.
I would like to suggest you watch the meeting I agree totally that there must be accountability and it has been lacking to say the least. I have asked for copies of the last several years audits as well to see how long these issues have been going on. There are some problems that can be addressed easily and fixed, and some that will require more thought and time to remedy. I am embarrassed that there even had to be an apology to Mr. Jasper, but you can just go to YouTube to see the now infamous Board meeting in which everyone in town was accused of being racist it’s the same people that called him a liar. I spoke to him a couple days prior to the meeting and apologized myself for the way in which he was talked about, it’s embarrassing. I have been pushing for transparency and I feel very strongly that until this happens the citizens of this town will be uninformed and that is just unacceptable. I have no problem with the buck stopping here and in saying that, a little research can show who was on the Board when this current audit year was unfolding. It ran from July 2015 until June of 2016, I came onto the Board in August of 2016 after the resignation of Mrs. Jackson. I do feel that the town Board has hired competent people to replace the person that resigned, the Board should have never put one person over managing the office and following through with the items the town Board had voted on and that were supposed to be put in place,and running the courts. It’s is just to much for any one person to do and has set the stage for a lot of the issues that are currently being addressed from last years audit. The budget is important, very important, there are a couple of issues that came up that were unforeseen and had to be addressed, 1. There was a grant written that the town received to place generators on the water tower and the lift stations ( that move sewage through to the lagoons) and to ensure that in the event of a power outage the doors to the fire department will function to get the emergency vehicles out. The grant was awarded to the town but the generators were not capable of keeping these things functioning they did not consult an engineer before writing the grant so the town had to file for an extension and consult with engineers to remedy the situation. I think the grant was written in early 2015 or late 2014. We got fewer generators than the grant was written for and put one of them on wheels so it could be used in all of the lift stations but the generators needed were much more expensive than the grant was written for so the town had to pay the difference. There has been more than one occasion were the town has been without power for an extended time, well over a week in one case, people have to have water and working toilets and the town has to have the capability to get emergency vehicles out and to people who are in need. This was not budgeted for but it was either do this or return the grant. 2. The fire department needed breathing apparatus’s they came to the town in early 2015 requesting 12 or 15 of these units and the Board agreed to give them 4. There was a horrible fire in town that took the life of a local citizen, while fighting this fire several of the volunteer firefighters were without these masks and some of them had smoke inhalation. The department came to the council after this fire and again requested more of these apparatus’s. In my opinion they should have done this when they asked for them in early 2015 but it was decided to give them the four the Board agreed on. I feel strongly his was a huge mistake these men and women are our neighbors and risk their lives to help us and they should be given the basic equipment needed to do that. Those items have played a large role in getting us off budget. There are other things as well but these two are by far the biggest culprits in my opinion. That being said I do believe that the town can still come in where they need to be by the end of this fiscal year. This board has from the time I have been on it not been given all of the information, an excellent example is the reports from the towns outside CPA’s this last Board meeting is the first time since I have been in this Board that we were all given copies of their report. Had this been available I think there would have been a lot more debate about the spending. As of January 31st, year to date revenue of the budget was 66% which was above the 58% for the first seven months of the year. The yet to date expenses were at 53% which is below the expected 58% for the first 7 months of the year. There are other funds that were unexpected that if not used to fix 7th street will increase that. The 7th street issue will be addressed after the pending lawsuit is decided and at that time the county can fix that road at a fraction of the cost it would take for the town to address and fix it. I would be happy to discuss these items or any others you have questions about. Feel free to contact me if you have other questions. Andy
Audits going back to 2005 are available on the State Auditor and Inspector’s website. https://www.sai.ok.gov/audit_reports/municipal_school_trust_audits.php
Thank you Dawn I requested them from Autumn. But it would probably be easier to do it this way.