The Pryor Times

September 17, 2013

Citizen challenges commissioner credentials

Staff Writer
Cydney Baron

— A request via email from a concern citizen revealed confusion on required credentials for county commissioners.

Pam Johnson, a resident of Disney, requested that her commissioner, Ryan Ball, provide proof of his certifications.

“I have requested to see and/or copy the certificates required by Commissioner Ball of District 3,” said Johnson. “If it is mandated that our commissioners obtain this training from OSU then it should be a matter of public record and I want to verify that my commissioner has taken the required courses.”

Commissioner Alva Martin said that a county commissioner must attend and complete a certification/accreditation program within 18 months of taking office. The most basic certification requires 51 hours of classes; County Budget Process, County Purchasing Procedures, Statute References and Legislative Process, Supervisory Skills 1, and Open Meeting/Meeting Procedures.

The course requirements, which are obtained through Oklahoma State University, were adopted in 2005. Everyone participating in the Commissioner Certifi-cation/Accreditation program has the option of completing a post-class exercise. Those completing the exercise will receive an accreditation while those completing only the required courses will earn a certification.

Martin  completed the basic certification and was awarded the certificate of completion. In addition to the required courses, Martin also took Managing Personnel in an At-Will Organization and Change Management.

“I have taken Financial & Federal reporting through OSU. I am scheduled to take Open Meetings and records on Nov. 20 and 21, County Purchasing Procedures on Dec. 4 and 5 and Statute References and Legislative Process on Dec. 12 and 13,” said Ball, who took office in 2011.

Commissioner Darrell Yoder completed the required basic courses in addition to Supervisory Skills II and Building your Budget.

Ball confirmed that Johnson did make the request, but said he was not refusing her.

“I don't have copies for the class I've done,” said Ball, referencing the fact that certificates are awarded once a year at the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma conference.

“The state law says these classes are mandatory, but there's no penalty. It wouldn't keep me from running for office again if I never took them,” said Ball.

He said he asked why the courses would be called mandatory and was told it was “just a good-faith thing.”

When asked about the requirement that the courses be completed within 18 months of taking office, he said there was no deadline.

“Some commissioners never have taken these classes and they've been in there 20 years,” said Ball. “There's no penalty.”

“Currently there are no legislative required courses for commissioners,” said Gayle Ward, ACCO executive director. “Our association provides three conferences plus three safety conferences per year and the county officers group has two conferences per year. At each of these gatherings, workshops are provided for attendees to enhance learning on various subjects related to their elected office.”

In addition, Ward said, ACCO hosts a three-day training for all new officers every election year.

“There is no requirement to attend, but we seldom have any new officers that don't attend,” said Ward. “During the other times when we get a new commissioner, we either go to their county or they come here and we go over the material offered at the new officers’ training.”

Ward said her association does not keep record of who attends classes, but that Oklahoma State University does.

“Commissioners’ job duties are all the same but vary within counties, usually depending on budget. One commissioner might have to run equipment if he can't afford to hire enough employees while one in a larger area may be strictly a management/board meetings type of commissioner so we strive to present education to serve all needs,” said Ward.

“Most don't have much idea what they are getting into and that's why they are eager to attend training,” said Ward.

However, Oklahoma State Statute 19-130.7 says that county commissioners “shall be required to participate in the appropriate training programs and educational seminars relevant to their positions and duties.”

A state statute is the higher governing authority.

“I spoke with a representative of OSU and

she informed that Commissioner Ball had not taken the required courses as mandated by law. He has only taken one course for his continuing education,” said Johnson.

Martin said that even if the classes were not required, it is still a good idea for new commissioners to get all the education they can.

“It is so important for a new commissioner to get these classes, especially the Open Meeting and Purchasing classes. They are absolutely crucial to our duties as a commissioner,” said Martin.