Gene Autry residents will have the chance to elect an entirely new board of trustees Tuesday as the town’s form of government reverts back to what current officials believe is its legal classification.
In recent months, the Gene Autry board of trustees were at odds over the type of government it was supposed to form among other issues, including mayoral compensation. The election has been set to resolve some of those issues, while Gene Autry Mayor Kyle Lawson said ongoing efforts to recover missing or unavailable records for the town continues.
The special election will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium of the Gene Autry Museum. The election will be a town hall forum, where registered voters will nominate candidates to fill the boards’ three trustee positions. The trustees will then decide which trustee will act as mayor.
Lawson said the town had previously acted as a strong mayor system, where the mayor is elected then appoints the trustees, but that no records exist to show the town approving the change.
Lawson said that participants in Tuesday’s election must be registered voters that live within the incorporated boundaries of the town.
According to the Carter County Election Board, there are 90 registered voters in Gene Autry.
Lawson stated previously that he will not run for reelection. He recently took a board position for Restoring Lives that he said he wants to focus his energy on. He said Sunday that he has sold his home in Gene Autry, and is no longer a resident, making him no longer eligible for office.
Lawson said his office sent out letters to all 90 registered voters to notify them of the upcoming election.
“The boundaries of the town are a little bit questionable,” Lawson said. “This goes back to the record keeping from the previous administration.”
Lawson said other records are incomplete or missing altogether, though his office has been able to obtain the town’s original charter and some ordinances dating back to the 1920s along with documents concerning compensation for the mayor and trustee members. The document shows the previous administration had, at least considered, a bond issue to provide the mayor, trustee and town clerk compensation of $10,000 in 2013. Lawson said he has hired a clerk to investigate the records further in an attempt to prevent any future confusion.
Lawson is overseeing the election as the only remaining acting town official. Lawson said that trustee Teresa Walker, who publicly resigned from office, had yet to submit a letter of resignation.
Trustee Robert Gilio has not resigned from the position because he believes the position to be invalid based on his conversations with the Oklahoma Municipal League. Gilio said he has not officially resigned from the seat, but that he is not acting in any official capacity for the town.
“Technically, I am still a trustee,” Gilio said. “But that is something that the new board of trustees will have to address. I’m not listed on the OML website. It’s an issue of record keeping, but you cannot have 4 people on the board.”