The Ardmore Development Authority Board of Trustees is stuck in neutral following the revelation there are a number of members serving in violation of the indenture.
A press release, issued by City of Ardmore offices Wednesday, announced it has come to the attention of the city that certain current trustees "may not now and may have never met the mandatory requirements to serve as trustees i.e. may not currently be or may not have been 'citizens and residents' of the city at the time of appointments and/or service as trustees."
Because eligibility of certain trustees has been called into question, the city has recommended the ADA Board take no official actions, "which would either bind the Authority or impact the interests of the City and its citizens."
Mayor Bob Geurin said the oversight was discovered by Margaret Love, an attorney retained by the city to review a number of issues the city is reviewing.
"This was brought to our attention Monday," Geurin said. "J.D. Spohn (city manager), Sheryl Ellis (vice-mayor) and I met with our legal council. She was looking through legal documents and asked if all our board members lived in Ardmore. We asked J.D. and his staff to research all the boards, not just the ADA. At that time, our attorney told me I had the legal obligation to notify the ADA they had a number of people living outside the city."
Geurin said a letter was sent to board members in question Tuesday morning, giving those members three business days to prove residency.
The press release refers to the third amendment to the Trust Indenture of the ADA, which says:
"(1) The Trustees of the Trust shall be nine (9) citizens and residents of the Beneficiary, who shall have the voting power of the Trustees, and three (3) ex-officio members without voting power constituting twelve (12) in number selected as follows:
The governing body of the Beneficiary, the City Commissioners, of the City of Ardmore, Oklahoma, each year shall select three (3) Trustees to commence their term of office on the 1st day of January of such year…."
Vice Mayor Sheryl Ellis said Wednesday night, "I think all citizens involved mean no harm. Everything happened with good intentions however it is the ADA's indenture. We are asking them to comply with the indenture because of possible future legal issues."
Ellis said that the discovery of this issue has led to a new policy being put in place that would require any recommendation to a City board to include the qualifications necessary to serve on the board.
"This got by the ADA and the City and we need to do some housekeeping," Ellis said. "The biggest issue is housekeeping and the City and ADA need to work together moving forward. I just see this as doing business. It is not my intent to embarrass or hurt anyone. To me, this should not be a huge brouhaha, I am very concerned because there are large dollar decisions made on the board. That is why when we first found out about it, we notified the ADA and we will be notifying other boards if there is a similar issue."
As a result of questions raised, the city has made recommendations on how to proceed until the issues can be resolved.
The press release states:
"The City has had a long relationship with the Ardmore Development Authority and looks forward to a productive relationship in the future. However a substantial portion of the funding for certain activities engaged in by the Authority has come from dedicated sales tax dollars of the City. It is incumbent on the City to insure all actions taken which involve, in any manner, the expenditure of public funds, are taken into full compliance with applicable state laws and the Trust Indenture. This is for the protection not only of the citizens of Ardmore but also the City, the City Commissioners and the Trustees of the Authority.
Therefore the City believes that it is prudent and necessary that the issue regarding the eligibility of any current Trustees to continue to serve as Trustees of the Ardmore Development Authority be resolved in a manner satisfactory to the City before any further official actions are taken which may either bind the Authority or impact the interests of the City and its citizens. As always, the City looks forward to working in a mutually productive manner with the Authority to resolve this serious issue."
Geurin said he believes the ADA was operating in good faith in the oversight, but at this point, protection of all entities involved is paramount.
"Per the press release, as the city commission, all we are trying to do is protect the city," Geurin said. "The tough part of this whole thing is there are a lot of good people that serve on the boards and not just the ADA. As far as following the rules of the indenture, at the end of the day, this is important to the taxpayers."
"This is embarrassing for everyone," Ellis added, "but there is a legal process to be considered and we have to take action."
Michael Pineda