The Pryor Times

Local News

February 26, 2014

MESTA attorney resigns

PRYOR, OK — The original project of separating the county 911 Center from Mayes Emergency Services Trust Authority has resulted in other snowballing issues.

Mayes County Commissioners meeting was called to order Monday at 9:30 a.m. The board recognized retired judge Gary Dean at 9:43. He was placed on the agenda to discuss MESTA and was given four minutes to do so.

Dean thanked the commissioners for their time, but expressed his disappointment that other interested individuals were denied their request to be placed on the agenda.

“There's growing concern about MESTA board appointments the commissioners have made recently. These board members have violated the open meeting act,” said Dean. “This is a serious violation that gives the legal right to remove these appointments from the board.”

Dean said he hopes that's exactly what the commissioners choose to do. He said the board members meet and talk outside regularly scheduled meetings.

He gave an example of the board’s resistance, citing an instance where six board members voted no on a motion to “coordinate changes” in the running of the 911 Center.

“This indicates an unworkable situation,” Dean said, suggesting the recently appointed board members be replaced by individuals wanting to work in harmony with the county.

Wingard, Ragsdale & Langley, accountants to MESTA, attached a letter to corrected financial statements.

“Rick brought to my attention today concerns that the personnel expenditures that are allocated between departments on the year-end financial statements looked incorrect. Upon investigating, I found that his concerns are were correct,” the letter stated.

Another issue that arose during the course of this project was the resignation of MESTA attorney Fred Sordahl. His resignation letter was presented to MESTA director Rick Langkamp, along with the board chairman and vice chairman.

“At MESTA's regularly scheduled board meeting Feb. 11, 2014, I explained to the board what was necessary for the scheduling of an executive session of the MESTA  board. It was discussed that an agenda that had been posted by Trent Peper on Jan. 21, 2014, attempting to establish a special meeting and an executive session for Feb. 5, 2014, was not proper in accordance with the Open Meeting Act of the State of Oklahoma.”

Sordahl's resignation states the Open Meeting Act allows public bodies to conduct executive sessions only under limited circumstances, citing an example of an assistant attorney general opinion.

Sordahl said he asked Peper on Feb. 3 if the purpose of the proposed meeting was for demoting/terminating Langkamp and was told “no that it was not.” Therefore, Sordahl said, there was no statutory reason for the executive session.

Sordahl references a letter written Feb. 13, containing signatures of six MESTA board members, noting this constitutes a quorum.

“The Feb. 13 correspondence attached with the six board members' signatures would on its face seem to indicate that MESTA issues and business were discussed among at least six members outside of a public meeting. This occurred after board members were advised against communications among a quorum of board members outside a public meeting,” Sordahl wrote.

He concluded by saying he could not continue to represent an organization who “ignores or fails to follow his legal advise about proper procedures.”

The letter containing the six signatures is addressed to the MESTA board chairman, attorney and director.

“Dear Gentleman, as board members of Mayes Emergency Service Trust Authority we have  been trying to get a meeting called to discuss disciplinary action of the MESTA Director Rick Langkamp for several weeks. We have been given many different excuses why this can't be done. Please accept this letter as an official request to have a special meeting and have an agenda item to go into executive session to discuss the disciplinary action of  Rick Langkamp,” the letter states.

“Mr. Sordahl, as the attorney for the Board of Trustees for MESTA please take whatever legal action necessary to accomplish this task. If your advice is consistent with what some of the board members have been told that this can't be done, please show us in the MESTA trust Indenture and the Oklahoma State Statutes where it gives you the authority to not let us have the meeting and agenda item we have requested.”

The letter is signed by Trent Peper, Sherman Weaver, Rob Foreman, Matt Penderson, Jamie Starling and Steve Hall.

Sordahl’s resignation was accepted.

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