The Pryor Times

March 4, 2014

Nepotism not mentioned in MESTA handbook

Staff Writer
Susan Wagoner

PRYOR, OK — Questions were raised about finances and nepotism at the Mayes Emergency Services Trust Authority special meeting Friday evening.

During the citizen’s comments section of the agenda, retired judge Gary Dean and Mary Blankenship, wife of board member Leon Blankenship, addressed the board.

Dean raised the issue of nepotism in regard to board member Sherman Weaver. Nepotism, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is described as “favoritism based on kinship.” Weaver’s nephew works as a medic for the ambulance service.

Dean said the issue wasn’t personal.

“I respect him, but I would ask Sherman Weaver to consider whether or not he’d step down from the board before the question is raised,” Dean said.

MESTA Director Rick Langkamp said the issue of nepotism has not been raised in the past and said his wife, Darla, has been employed by MESTA for several years.

“She’s done us a great job,” Langkamp said, adding that if the question were raised regarding Weaver, then it would have to apply across the board.

The newly hired interim attorney, Jim Orbison, asked the board if nepotism is addressed in the handbook or bylaws.

Several board members responded that the issue is not mentioned in the handbook and has not been raised before. There are no bylaws.

Weaver said he would hold his comments until he discussed the issue with Orbison.

According to MESTA, Weaver was appointed to the board by County Commissioner Alva Martin on Jan. 21, 2013. He replaced former trustee Harriet Dunham. Weaver’s nephew was already an employee when he Weaver was appointed.

Of the 11 MESTA board members, five are representatives from each town in the county, Adair, Salina, Locust Grove, Chouteau and Pryor. Then the three county commissioners each get two representatives which they appoint for their district. No appointments are made or suggested by MESTA.

Blankenship said a town hall meeting is being planned for March 10, at 7 p.m.

“There have been some questions about where the money is coming from and where it’s going,” she said. “We want the CPA and auditor there to answer any financial questions about MESTA that the public might have.”

Langkamp explained that several news articles have raised questions about whether or not he was “cooking the books.”

“An error was made by the CPA,” Langkamp said. “Since there have been newspaper articles questioning it, the public wants to know.”

Orbison jumped into the discussion.

“Does the auditor and CPA work for MESTA?” he asked. “I would suggest to the board that if they work for you, then they absolutely should not do this without prior board approval.”

It was also discussed that if enough board members were to attend a town hall meeting it could constitute a quorum.

Further discussion determined that concerned citizens are welcome to attend the next MESTA board meeting, scheduled for March 11 at 5 p.m.

“If people show up at the board meeting and want certain questions answered, then a motion can be made and voted on by the board to allow the financial people in attendance to address those questions,” Orbison said.