County Orders Town To Hold Elections

Tuesday, April 10th 2007, 6:34 am
By: News On 6

TULLAHASSEE, Okla. (AP) _ Wagoner County commissioners ordered town officials to hold an election or the county will arrange to do so. In a letter sent on Monday, commissioners said the demand that the town hold an election was issued at the request of Assistant District Attorney Doug Kirkley, who told commissioners the town hasn't held a meeting and election of officers since 2001.

State law requires towns not conducting elections by ballot to hold a town meeting and election the first Tuesday of April in odd-numbered years.

District 3 Commissioner Jim Hargrove said the letter will give Tullahassee a chance to get reorganized.

The same day the letter was sent, misdemeanor arrest warrants were issued for three of the four board of trustee members.

Prosecutors have charged Mayor Benice Joy Howell, 51, and trustees Delphine Foreman, 40, and Michelle Lee Foreman, 38, who are sisters, with two counts each of violating the Oklahoma Open Meetings and Open Records Acts. Each count is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to one year in the county jail if convicted.

The board of trustees met in regular session Monday night for less than 10 minutes. During the meeting, Howell declined comment on the election issue and about the charges she and the others face.

The charges allege the women didn't properly post notices of the trustees' March 12 meeting and took action on agenda items before the meeting was held. They also are accused of refusing to provide a local resident copies of minutes from meetings.

In an affidavit seeking arrest warrants, Wagoner County Deputy Bob Haley said Howell paid the town's water bill more than two hours before the March 12 meeting was to have been held. The agenda for that meeting showed it was posted on March 7.

Prosecutors also have criticized town officials for not filing annual audit reports.

Without the audits or reports in lieu of audits, the towns volunteer firefighters may lose their pension, according to state officials.