Claremore Daily Progress

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June 4, 2014

Forum reveals candidates positions: Treasurer

CLAREMORE — The candidates for Rogers County Treasurer faced off Monday Rogers State University as small business owner Jason Carini looks to unseat incumbent Cathy Pinkerton-Baker.

Baker opened the event speaking about her 35 years in both Tulsa and Rogers County.

“My duties are to maintain a $72 million tax base we have, $70 million has been collected and apportioned,” Baker said. “…I feel extremely proud and pleased to be your treasurer.”

Each month the treasurer’s office balances a bank balance of $17 million, according to Baker.

“I believe we need a serious change in our treasurer’s office,” Carini said.

Carini has operated a small business for the past five years, debt-free and plans to bring those principles to the office.

“First, I will show up to work everyday. I will hire a CPA to be on staff, collect back and delinquent taxes. I will end the fringe benefits of the treasurer and I will also attend the weekly commissioners meetings, Carini said.

The candidates were asked what the major issues is facing Rogers County government.

Carini said the lack of delinquent taxes and the use of county resources for personal use are two “heinous” issues.

Over the last seven years,  approximately $1.5 million in delinquent taxes could have been collected, according to Carini.

“That money could have gone to schools to hire teachers … it could have gone to the sheriff’s office to hire deputies,” Carini said. “If it is not illegal it is certainly morally wrong.”

Carini referenced the Oklahoma State Auditor’s recent finding Baker used a cell phone for personal use. After the report was released,  Baker refunded the county for the used of the phone, issuing the county a personal check for the expense.

For county government to be better all officials need to work together, according to Baker.

Baker said Monday, the cell phone was purchased and approved by the county commissioners for after hours phone support.

Addressing Carini’s statements about collections,  Baker said the collection rate was at 99 percent.

“In todays economy there are several that are unable to pay,” Baker said. “…We diligently go after collections.”

Baker said they are beginning a tax warrant program in July.  Letters of intent have already been served and $208,000 has already been collected, according to Baker.

Carini argued the treasurer’s office has not been following up with taxpayers. There has been no follow up in the past 23 years, he said.

“There has been no pursuit of those who owe delinquent taxes,” Carini said.

Baker attributes the high collection rates to her professional staff and the innovative programs they offer.

She said they exhibit a “high leadership quality” to the office.”

“I have been humble to serve you all these years and I want to continue,” Baker said.

Carini said he will focus on the vital role of the office which is tax collection.

 

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