Claremore Daily Progress

May 16, 2013

UPDATE: Recent county tax vote could be invalid

Legal notice of election not published as required by law

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

 

Voters went to the polls on Tuesday passing the renewal of the Rogers County One-Cent Sales Tax, however doubts over legal publication of the election are creating concern that the election could be invalid.

Across the county 3,241 voters participated casting 1,887 ballots for the measure and 1,354 against the tax renewal.

The legal notice for the May 14 election was not published in any newspaper in Rogers County as required under Oklahoma State Statutes. 

Citizens may file a protest to contest the election in Rogers County District Court, according to Fran Roach of the Oklahoma Election Board. The election cost the county approximately $25,000.

Rogers County Clerk Robin Anderson said she did not publish the legal notice for the election, when contacted by the Claremore Daily Progress. 

“Julie Dermody is responsible for that,” Anderson said.

Rogers County Election Board Secretary Dermody said after confirmation from the Oklahoma State Election Board that it is not the responsibility of her office, but that of the county clerk to publish the legal notice. The Claremore Daily Progress verified Dermody’s comment with Roach, who said the entity that calls the election via the county clerk’s office is responsible for publication of the legal notice of election.

When the tax was last renewed on Feb. 5, 2008 the legal notice was submitted to local newspapers for publication by then County Clerk Peggy Armstrong.

“I was not aware if it was published or not,” said Rogers County Commissioner Kirt Thacker.

“Not being an attorney, I am not questioning if [the election] is legal or not,” Thacker said. “It is going to be what it is going to be.”

Thacker was informed of the issue Thursday morning and is consulting with the Rogers County District Attorney’s office.

“I don’t know which way to proceed at this time,” Thacker said. 

It is yet to be determined the legality of the May 14 One-Cent tax election.

If the election is not valid the commissioners will be able to bring the issue back for a vote, however the election will cost the same as any other special election called by the county.

The Oklahoma State Statutes Title 19 OS 383 defines the publication requirements for questions submitted to voters.

“The mode of submitting questions to the people contemplated by the last two sections shall be the following: The whole question, including the sum desired to be raised, the amount of tax desired to be authorized, the rate per annum, and the whole regulation, including the time of its taking effect or having operation, if it be of a nature which can be set forth, and the penalty of its violation if there be one, is to be published at least four (4) weeks in some newspaper published in the county.” 

Judge John Maley ruled in Erickson vs. the city of Tahlequah on a similar issue in 2001. 

Maley found “the City of Tahlequah approved a resolution calling for a special election for the purpose of increasing the city sales tax by 1 cent. Tahlequah did not follow the law’s requirement that notice of a special election be given by publishing the resolution at least ten days before the date of a special election in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality. Consequently, the election is void.”