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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Concerns answered in town hall meeting

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  • Gary Jones, Oklahoma State Auditor, addressed a number of issues throughout the course of a town hall meeting Wednesday.
    In wrapping up his presentation, Jones said part of the problem in situations dealing with public trust authorities is the entity can lose track of what they are and start acting like a private company.
    Whether or not the ADA acted like a private company in the past is a question that will need to be examined by the city, ADA and the public. Jones said he was unable to answer that particular question.
    "I don't have enough information," Jones said. "Without looking at it further, I can't make a fair determination."
    What Jones was able to determine was there are several areas in which the ADA needs to be more transparent than it has been previously. There were also several concerns brought to light during the first town hall meeting in April that falls beyond the purview of the auditor's office. But at the beginning of the meeting, the importance of communication with the public was addressed.
    "We think the exchange of information will allow the people to move forward," he said.
    The auditor's office has recommended the ADA contact the Oklahoma Attorney General's office for guidance in regard to open meeting act requirements. Current ADA management expressed to the office its desire to handle all board meetings properly and in compliance with the act moving forward, including the appropriate posting of meeting notices and limiting executive session items to those permissible under the act.
    When violations came to light at the end of 2012, members of the ADA were advised to seek training yet have failed at this point to do so. Brian Carter, ADA interim President and CEO, said he has spent a lot of time studying the open meeting act.
    "We may not be perfect but we are being very careful," he said. "It is a topic that will be covered at our strategy meeting."
    Carter said the goal for the strategy meeting is June.
    On the issue of co-mingling taxpayer monies into the chamber of commerce and allowing taxpayer-funded employees to work in a private entity, Jones said management agreements are in place and available to the public and that it was recommended the ADA be as transparent as possible. The auditor's office also believes the issues can be addressed in the requested audit that will be conducted by Crawford & Associates.
    Jones' office offered no recommendation on the issue of the water tower as it is expected to be addressed through the court system. It was noted both sides have acknowledged errors were made. There was also no recommendation made on the ADA's issues with the right-of-way on the rail project, which has been secured since the initial town hall meeting.
    Page 2 of 2 - Jones said there needs to be more accounting or analysis on the alleged $1 million loss on the Hickory Ridge project. Carter said roughly $2.5 million was spent on the project and it was viewed as an investment.
    Mita Bates, ADA Vice-President, said one of the concerns of area employers was the lack of affordable housing for potential employees and that studies and community input were part of the process for determining how to proceed on the Hickory Ridge housing addition.
    While on the subject, Luke Pollard asked about 47 acres deeded to the Ardmore Technology Park, which is a public-private membership. The ADA will provide documentation to clarify its investment and whether the issue appeared on its minutes and agenda. Carter did say a new memorandum would be drawn up, as the old one is outdated.
    The subject of the $600,000 loan between the city and ADA was documented and carried on the books with no recommendation made by the state auditor's office.
    The ADA has stated it will change its reporting format for its oil and gas royalty income to clarify its expenditures in relation to sales tax revenue.
    "We want to be transparent and answer questions directly and we will continue to do that," Carter said. "We appreciate the state auditor's office for what they have done."
    The auditor's office lined out how a state audit can be requested and stated the ADA could consider expanding the scope of its current audit engagement to review additional items.
    "We appreciate the auditor's office for coming back to town to address the concerns," J.D. Spohn, Ardmore City Manager said. "Looking at the information, it might be possible to expand the audit and answer the questions."
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