Claremore Daily Progress

May 28, 2013

Commissioners nullify sales tax election, set Aug. 13 for new vote

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

Rogers County Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to nullify the 1-cent sales tax election May 14 and set a new election for Aug. 13.
Commissioners Mike Helm and Kirt Thacker supported Aug. 13 for the election while Commissioner Dan DeLozier requested the vote take place on Sept. 10 with two upcoming school bond proposals.
Thacker shared his concerns about the election failing and the expiration of the tax collections, resulting in the need to create a new tax for another vote.
Assistant District Attorney David Iski said that if the election fails by statute, a new election could not be held for six months.
“Let’s get it over with,” Thacker said.
The election will cost approximately $25,000.
“I put this on because it was brought to our attention that a publication was not filed. I don’t see any reason to continue with this election the way that it is,” Thacker said. “I think to be on the safe side, we vote to nullify this election and set a date for a new election.”
The decision came after taxpayer Myron Grubowski filed a complaint with the Rogers County Clerk and the Election Board questioning the validity of the election.
A hearing took place Tuesday at the request of the district attorney’s office with Judge Dwayne Steidley upon receipt of Grubowski’s complaint.
“I went up to Judge Dwayne Steidley’s courtroom. A hearing is set on the irregularities filed by Mr. Grubowski,” Iski said.
The hearing was recessed to allow the commissioners to make a decision on the election, according to Iski.
“Again, the people have spoken and we have legal telling us one thing,” Helm said. “We have a complaint filed to the judge. The judge wants to make a ruling.”
Helm questioned Thacker on the timing of their decision.
“The idea of putting it aside before the judge rules,  are we really ahead of him or is he waiting on us?” Helm said.  “Why do we need to rule?”
Thacker said the county needed to void the election because the way it stood that taxes collected after Oct. 1 would be collected illegally.
He said the issue could turn into legal action similar to the multi-million dollar lawsuit against Material Services.
“I don’t want that on my watch,” Thacker said.
“Mr. Iski, was that a legal election?” DeLozier said. “Are we nullifying an election that was good or that was bad?” 
Iski gave no response to DeLozier’s question.
DeLozier and Thacker are requesting that a checklist be used to insure the upcoming election will be conducted according to statute.
Election Board Secretary Julie Dermody said her office already uses a checklist to insure accuracy.
Iski offered to assist the board by writing additional language into the resolution to assist the commissioners and Rogers County Clerk Robin Anderson with the proper procedures.
Anderson said she would be working with the district attorney’s office to insure the publication of the legal notice is done properly for the upcoming election.
Anderson has not claimed responsibility for the May 14 publication error. However,  county officials have attributed the error to her office.
The commissioners and Iski provided no comment regarding any action to be taken to hold any party responsible for the May 14 publication error.
Linda Lepak asked the board if the county’s errors and omissions insurance could be used to cover the $25, 000 loss.
Thacker said he has contacted the insurance company and they are reviewing the matter.
“I appreciate what you did today and that you stepped up to a really important issue,” Lepak said. “It is important for the taxpayers and all of us to investigate if anyone was at fault, what we can do to avoid the issue in the future and that everyone understands their job duties to protect the taxpayers.”
“Also, as a taxpayer, we expect our elected officials to be knowledgeable of their job and accountable of those duties,” Cindy Smith said.