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April 12, 2013

E911 Trust Authority formation in question

CLAREMORE — The Rogers County E911 Trust Authority met Wednesday to accept the trust indenture. However, the agreement has been delayed again.

Oklahoma statutes prohibit elected officials from serving on a trust without a beneficiary interest in the trust, according to Attorney James C. Orbison.
During final review of the contract, Orbison discovered the potential conflict and on Monday, notified the Board of County Commissioners and Assistant District Attorney David Iski.
“I have been hired by the county to draft this document for a new trust authority,” Orbison said.
The trust members had numerous questions about the issue.
The board should contact separate legal counsel for advice, according to Orbison. 
“Based on my past experience, it dawned on me that there is a duel office holding clause in the statute, if you violate this dual office prohibition, the courts have said you automatically vacate your position,” Orbison said.
There are 29 exceptions to the statute and pages of attorney general opinions on the issue, he added.
Exception 23 to Oklahoma statute title 51 would allow the fire chiefs to serve, according to Orbison.
“It is not 100 percent clear, but I have not found any exception that would eliminate a fire chief from serving on a public trust,” Orbison said. 
“I would say to you that I think the fire chiefs are ok.  It highlights a point I am not the person that should be telling you because I am not your attorney.”
“How is it possible that elected officials can serve on the Rogers County Jail Trust Authority?” one mayor asked.
Orbison said that the Rogers County municipalities are beneficiaries of the jail trust.
The municipalities would need to become beneficiaries of the E911 Trust Authority to allow the elected officials to serve on the trust.
“This is just another hurdle we are going to have to get this put together,” said Rogers County Commissioner Dan DeLozier.
E911 Administrator Janet Hamilton suggests that a board of operations might be a good alternative to a trust.
“I am fine with doing this with beneficiaries,” DeLozier said.
Each member of the trust will be seeking legal council to determine the best course of action moving forward.
The board will not meet until after the issue is resolved, according to Hamilton.

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