Questions and issues about the Ardmore Development Authority were asked and addressed Thursday afternoon by three citizens during a town hall meeting with Gary Jones, state auditor. With more than 50 people in attendance, Richard Geurin, Luke Pollard and Tommy Spradling each asked questions or voiced concerns during a meeting that lasted a little over an hour.
The meeting, which took place in the Santa Fe Depot, came on the heels of private meetings between Jones and his staff and members of the ADA and City of Ardmore.
Prior to hearing concerns, Jones told those in attendance there have been some concerns in the community.
"We want to let you address those concerns to know what the issues are," Jones said.
Jones said often when he and staff members meet with communities, they find the issues do not rise to the level of criminal action and sometimes they do. Whether or not that is the case in Ardmore remains to be seen as the auditor's office will compile a report of its findings in addressing the citizen concerns and will have it available to the ADA and the public by May 15.
Both Pollard and Geurin addressed issues regarding the ADA and handed out a list of 14 concerns. The issues ranged from the financial dealings of the ADA to open meeting act violations. Several of the issues were put to rest during the meeting, others will be looked into further by the auditor. Some issues were addressed to Jones and his staff as rumor without any documented evidence. Other issues were already scheduled to be looked at by Watkins and Associates, a private firm hired by the ADA to do a succession audit.
Geurin said a meeting with Larry Pulliam, former ADA Chairman, resulted in some concerns. He said Pulliam had told him, "that if the sales tax doesn't pass, they would still be able to fund the ADA from oil reserves." Revenue from oil and gas royalties on land leased from the city must be used toward improvements at the Ardmore Airpark. Geurin said the meeting with Pulliam took place after he made an open record request regarding Wes Stucky's salary. Stucky recently retired as the ADA President and CEO.
"Larry wanted to know if I was a Wes hater, was I against the ADA and why I wanted the information," Geurin said. "Larry said he did not want to see me hanging from a cross when it was said and done. I took it as a threat."
Geurin said Pulliam told him in regard to the open meeting law, past meetings may not have been above board, but it worked for them. He also said Pulliam told him the people requesting the information had never done anything for this town.
Page 2 of 2 - "It was not a pleasant feeling, being threatened by the chairman of the board, after requesting information," Geurin said.
Tommy Spradling asked about the TIF tax district money reported by the city and cited two sources giving differing amounts. Jones said he would look at the reports. After everyone spoke, Jones said the cost of an audit would range from $18,000 to $72,000. The requesting party would handle the cost of the audit, whether it is the city or the ADA. Should a citizen petition be circulated and approved for requesting the audit, it would fall upon the ADA to pay for it.
If an audit is performed, it would be four months at the earliest for it to start and more likely five to six months. Jones said regardless, if a state audit were performed the office would be dealing with issues, not personalities. The issue of Open Meeting Act violations were addressed in that non-compliance does not mean a violation because there has to be a willful, deliberate type of violation.
"Today was all about listening to the community," Brian Carter, ADA Interim President & CEO, said. "We now know the questions that need to be addressed. You can't answer rumors, but you can answer questions and we have that now."
Editor's Note: See a list of issues and concerns from the Transparency Advocate Group in the Friday print edition of The Ardmoreite.