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.”
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